Employers in Georgia must provide a safe working environment under federal and state laws. If conditions are unsafe, workers have recourse. They should first report their concerns to their employer. They can then also involve the federal or state Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Below are some of the basic things all workers in Georgia need to know about making a report. If there are any doubts, our Douglasville workers’ compensation attorneys can offer advice on how to proceed.
What is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Who Does it Cover?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) is a federal law which requires employers to maintain a safe working environment. Workplaces should be free from conditions that can cause injury, illness or death. OSHA enforces this act and establishes the necessary safety standards.
The OSH Act protects most employees of private businesses. They have coverage either by the Federal OSHA or by an OSHA-approved state plan. Federal OSHA also covers certain workers who face exclusion from state plans. These include some who work in maritime industries or on military bases.
State and local government agency workers not covered by federal OSHA. However, they are protected under the OSH Act if they work in states with OSHA-approved programs. Federal government employees are covered under a separate program. Agency heads have a duty to provide safe working conditions.
The OSH Act does not cover:
- Self-employed workers
- Farms which employ only immediate family members
- Mining, nuclear, transportation and other industries that are regulated by other Federal agencies.
Responsibilities of Employers under the OSH Act Explained by Douglasville Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
Employers must adhere to certain safety standards. They must:
- Provide a workplace free of health and safety hazards
- Display an OSHA job safety notice
- Provide training in safety procedures if necessary
- Keep records of injuries, death, and exposure to hazardous materials.
The safety standards also include provisions for equipment maintenance, fire prevention, and protective clothing. If employers breach any of these standards, workers have the right to make a report.
What to Do When Faced with Dangerous Working Conditions
The steps workers should take depend on whether a safety hazard poses an imminent danger or not. If there is no immediate danger, employees should inform the employer of the problem in writing. If the employer doesn’t correct the problem, workers can file a complaint with OSHA and request an inspection. It is not necessary for workers to know which OSHA standard has been violated before they make that request.
Any worker or their representative can file a complaint with the local OSHA office. So too can anyone who knows about unsafe conditions at a workplace. They can make the complaint online or by phone, mail, fax or mail. They can ask that OSHA not reveal their name.
Many workers fear employers will punish them for making a complaint. However, OSHA regulations and state laws prohibit employers from retaliating. Employers should not fire or demote a worker or reduce their pay if they file a complaint. If they do this, they may have to reinstate the worker or pay compensation for lost wages.
Employees who suspect they are being victimized should contact Douglasville workers comp lawyers. They will be advised to contact their local OSHA office immediately. A whistleblower complaint must be filed with OSHA within 30 calendar day of the retaliatory action. Time is, therefore, of the essence.
In cases where there is imminent danger, workers can refuse to work. This is an option if:
- The employer refuses to rectify the problem
- There is reasonable belief that conditions pose substantial risk of serious injury or death
- The danger is so immediate there is no time to notify OSHA
- The worker had no reasonable alternative
If you want to learn about an organization’s OSHA inspection history, you can conduct an establishment search on OSHA’s website. Both current and former employees can ask the employer to provide injury and illness records. The employer has a duty to provide them by the end of the next business day.
Contact Douglasville Workers’ Compensation Attorneys to Protect Yourself
If you are facing unsafe working conditions or you got an injury at work, you need an attorney. A workers’ comp lawyer can help you determine how best to approach the situation. They will guide you through the process of seeking a better working environment. Contact the Douglasville workers comp attorneys at the Law Office of John B. Jackson today for a consultation.