Know the Law. Know your Rights.
What is OSHA?
“OSHA” is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act). The Act, enacted by Congress, ensures safe and healthful working conditions for employees. OSHA provides protection to almost all private sector and some public sector employees by establishing and enforcing strict standards.
What is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970?
“OSH Act” is a set of laws that enforces the workplace conditions that employers must comply with and includes regulations that ensure the health and safety of employees. In general, that means that the workplace must be free of hazards that can cause injuries or illnesses. For example, OSH Act protects employees from being exposed to toxic chemicals, unsanitary work conditions, extremely loud noises and physical hazards that could result in slips and falls.
In addition to specific standards tailored to a particular industry (i.e. construction), all employers must comply with the General Duty Clause which requires the workplace to be “free of serious recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical injury to his employees.”
The Act also requires employers to provide employees with personal protective equipment (PPE) as well as attempt to eliminate or reduce hazards to minimize risks. However, any serious hazard must be eliminated. A “serious hazard” is defined by OSH Act as one “that there is a substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result.”
How does OSH Act ensure workplace safety?
The Act requires employers identify hazards and keep records of workplace injuries. Moreover, employers must investigate workplace injuries, illnesses and incidents. Employers are required to use this data to identify hazards and implement practices to reduce the risks with corrective actions.
In addition, OSHA investigates workplace complaints as well as conducts random inspections. Employers also have the right to file a confidential safety and health complaint requesting an OSHA inspection if the employee believes there is a hazard.
What happens if OSHA finds a workplace violation?
OSH Act has strict penalties for employers who “willfully or repeatedly” violate the Act. Civil penalties can range from $5,000 to $70,000 for each willful violation. Employers can also be fined for failing to correct hazardous conditions. In the most serious cases of OSH Act violations, OSHA can seek a court order to force the employer to eliminate any “imminent danger” and the immediate removal of all employees from the workplace.
Does OSH Act conflict with California State Law?
The Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH or Cal/OSHA) provides state protection to employers that often provides greater protection than the federal OSH Act. In fact, California boasts some of the country’s most strict protections for employees under state law. If you are an employee working in California, you should file a complaint with the state agency in most cases. However, there are some cases that must be filed with OSHA. An experienced labor law attorney can provide you with the appropriate agency based on the facts of your case.
Can an employee sue an employer for OSHA violations?
Yes. If an OSHA violation resulted in an injury, you can sue your employer for failing to adhere to OSHA. You may also sue any negligent or legally liable party which could include the property owner, a general contract or a third party. Also, depending on your injury and the OSHA violation, you could be part of a class action if other employees are similarly injured.
Also, your rights as an employee could be violated in other ways such as being fired for filing an OSHA complaint, or for refusing to work in unsafe conditions. In fact, there are over 20 labor laws that protect whistleblowers and prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee who complains. There are strict time limits for filing these claims for whistleblower protection, so be sure to consult an experienced labor law attorney immediately after a retaliatory action occurs.
Srourian Law Firm, with locations in Los Angeles, Westwood, Woodland Hills, and Orange County is experienced in all aspects of employment law including OSHA and Cal/OSHA violations and have aggressively represented employees in Los Angeles, Hollywood, Santa Monica, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Fullerton, Tustin, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Garden Grove, Laguna Niguel, Brea, Fountain Valley, Aliso Viejo, Yorba Linda, Westminster, Laguna Hills, Cypress, and La Habra.
If you or someone you know suffered employment violations as an employee due to hazards in the workplace, you have certain employee rights under state and federal law, and may be entitled to compensation as a part of the class action lawsuit. Please contact us to speak with one of our lawyers for a free consultation.