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Workplace Safety: How Does OSHA Protect Employees?

Whenever you hear news about a serious workplace accident–a construction worker is hospitalized after a fall, a roofer suffers an electrocution, or a machine operator loses a finger–you will likely also hear about OSHA. That’s because OSHA is the federal agency tasked with establishing, investigating, and enforcing workplace safety. OHSA protects workers’ rights while holding employers accountable for maintaining safe working conditions.

Created in 1970 alongside the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA covers most private sector employees in the nation. In Massachusetts, OSHA protections also extend to public sector workers as of 2019 (although the Massachusetts Department of Labor Standards is responsible for enforcement, rather than OSHA).

Below are five key OSHA responsibilities 1. Establish Workplace Safety Requirements

U.S. employers must follow all applicable OSHA standards. They also have to comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires them to keep their workplace free from serious known hazards. While limited exemptions exist, OSHA regulations cover most employees in the country.

2. Support Worker Safety Training

Before participating in potentially dangerous workplace activities, employees have the right to receive safety training from their employer. OSHA provides information on employers' training requirements, as well as offering free publications, videos, and other resources to help employers protect workers. To further promote workplace safety, the agency also delivers occupational hazard awareness classes and authorizes OSHA Training Institute (OTI) Education Centers nationwide.

3. Conduct Workplace Inspections

A variety of circumstances can trigger an OSHA inspection: a situation that poses imminent danger, a report of a severe workplace injury, or belonging to a high-risk industry or job site. Employees who feel they have an unsafe workplace may also request an OSHA inspection. If you believe your working conditions are dangerous or that your employer is not following OSHA standards, you have the right to file a confidential complaint without fear of retaliation.

4. Investigate Workplace Incidents

OSHA requires covered employers to keep a record of serious work-related injuries and illnesses. In the case of severe workplace injuries–defined as death, hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye–employers must report the incident to OSHA within a certain number of hours. All work-related fatalities and some serious injuries result in an OSHA investigation to determine whether the employer violated any safety regulations.

5. Enforce Safety Standards

When OSHA compliance officers determine that a safety violation occurred, the agency can issue citations, impose fines, and require the employer to fix the problem by a specific date. The maximum financial penalty is currently $14,502 per violation, but inspectors can impose fines of up to $145,027 for repeated or willful violations.

Boston Workers’ Rights Attorneys

The work injury lawyers at Altman & Altman are dedicated to protecting your right to safe working conditions. Whether you want to report an OSHA violation in your workplace, feel your employer retaliated against you for filing an OSHA complaint, or need help with a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim, we can help. Contact us anytime 24/7 for a free, confidential consultation on your Massachusetts workers’ rights case.

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