As OSHA defense attorneys, we often stress the importance of our clients’ (construction employers) need to have a firm understanding of the rules and restrictions enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The more knowledge construction business owners have of safety-related laws, the better they can mitigate the chances of these laws negatively impacting their business. For this reason, many of our clients invest in a monthly subscription plan so they can stay in the know.
It’s equally important that business owners understand the relationship between their employees and their employees’ safety rights. With an understanding of workers’ rights under OSHA’s standards, business owners can prevent a minor problem from becoming a serious issue. In this article, an OSHA lawyer with Cotney Construction Law will discuss worker safety rights under OSHA. Specifically, we will cover the requirements set forth by OSHA’s “Job Safety and Health — It’s the Law” poster. If your business has been accused of violating any of the rules and restrictions covered in this editorial (or retaliating against an employee that exercised their rights under these laws), consult our OSHA defense lawyers.
Understanding Workers’ Safety Rights
Employers should know that all workers have the right to a safe workplace. However, there are many laws governed by OSHA regarding employees’ rights. In fact, without the assistance of a construction attorney, an employer may be unaware that some of these OSHA standards exist. Here are a few of the requirements an employer is obligated to fulfill related to employees’ rights under OSHA:
Employees have the right to raise any safety-related concerns to their employer. They also have a right to report any safety-related issues directly to OSHA. These complaints can include reporting potential hazards located on the jobsite, health-related concerns, or reporting a work-related injury, illness, or accident they observed or experienced themselves.
Why You Should Hire an OSHA Defense Attorney: If an employee has made a safety or health-related report internally or through an OSHA representative, this is a time-sensitive issue that requires the immediate attention of an attorney. For internal safety reports, an OSHA defense attorney can review the report and provide you with legal advice. An attorney can also provide a third-party audit of your jobsite and offer an unbiased opinion of the safety practices in your workplace. If a report is made to OSHA, contact an OSHA lawyer to provide legal representation for your business during an investigation by an OSHA inspector. If you have already received a citation from OSHA, an OSHA attorney can dispute this citation on your behalf.
As part of a lawful reporting system, employees have a right to raise any safety concerns without experiencing any form of retaliation for doing so. Retaliation has many forms, including bullying, harassment, a demotion, reduced pay, discipline (including termination of employment), alteration of a worker’s position requirements, or even a reassignment of a shift time. Employers should be aware that employees have a right to file a complaint alleging retaliation if they feel that they experienced any negative consequences after reporting a safety-related issue.
Why You Should Hire an OSHA Defense Attorney: To avoid a retaliation claim, employers need to have a complete understanding of their responsibilities when a complaint is filed by an employee. Further, the employer needs to treat all employees in a consistent manner. It’s best to consult a construction lawyer before making any significant employment decisions related to an employee that recently filed a complaint.
An employee has the right to request additional training on assignments that involve any type of potential workplace hazard. Any employee can also request additional information when working near potentially hazardous substances. As long as a training request is reasonable, it’s the employer’s responsibility to provide the employee with additional resources to ensure their safety.
Why You Should Hire an OSHA Defense Attorney: To determine if additional training or resources are necessary, consult a construction attorney for legal advice. An OSHA defense lawyer can also draft, review, and revise all your safety manuals and other documents related to project site safety.
Along with requesting additional training, employees have a right to request safety and medical-related content from their employer. For example, an employee can request a copy of their medical records, the results of safety tests performed on the jobsite, injury logs, and safety incident reports.
Why You Should Hire an OSHA Defense Attorney: Although an employee has a right to request any of the above documents, keep in mind that sharing medical-related records can create liability issues. If an employee requests medical information or any other form of confidential information from your construction firm, consult a construction lawyer before you take action.
An employee has a right to participate in an OSHA inspection, including the right to truthfully answer any safety-related questions asked by an OSHA compliance despite any repercussions the employer may face. In fact, when an OSHA official arrives at a jobsite for an inspection, they will most likely inform the employer that they will question several employees as part of their inspection process.
Why You Should Hire an OSHA Defense Attorney: If a safety-related incident is reported to OSHA, employers should contact an OSHA attorney. From gathering required documents to having legal representation present during an audit, there are a myriad of reasons why you should contact an OSHA lawyer if your jobsite has been reported to OSHA.
The Role of the Employer
Now that we have covered the basic rights of employees related to OSHA rules and restrictions, lets focus on a few key tasks that employers can take away from this information:
Employers need to do everything in their power to provide employees with a hazard-free workplace. If an employee does raise a complaint with either their employer or through another channel like OSHA, the employer needs to be fully aware that any form of retaliation towards the employee that made the complaint can result in a retaliation claim.
It’s critical that employers do everything in their power to comply with OSHA standards. This includes implementing training processes that ensure that everyone on the jobsite has received proper instruction of any safety-related topics related to their work tasks. Lastly, to ensure a safe workplace, employees should have direct access to training manuals, including manuals in multiple languages to make certain that they fully understand these documents.
Communication is key to ensuring that the workplace is safe for all employees. First off, every construction company should have a safety reporting system in place that ensures that all safety concerns are promptly addressed. Second, all workplace hazards should be clearly marked. Third, any OSHA citations should be posted as close to the hazard as possible. Many of these communication tasks not only improve safety practices but are also required by OSHA.
For starters, all required OSHA forms should be posted on the jobsite in an area that is visible to everyone involved. Second, site managers need to know the OSHA standards related to reporting accidents. For example, do your management-level employees know that they need to report any significant work-related injuries within a 24-hour window to OSHA?
Promote Safety in the Workplace
Along with fulfilling the obligations required by OSHA, construction firms must also implement safety practices that improve their safety culture. Providing regular breaks, reasonable accommodations, and consistent training courses are a few ways employers can promote safer work conditions and a more informed workforce.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.