OSHA and Workplace Rights
Your health and safety in the workplace are protected not only by a comprehensive system of state benefits, but also by far-reaching federal laws meant to support people in your situation. At the Boston law firm of Kantrovitz & Associates, our workers’ compensation lawyers have the knowledge and experience to help Massachusetts employees understand and advocate for their rights. We will carefully listen to the details of your situation and craft a legal strategy tailored to your needs and goals.Understanding the Occupational Safety and Health Act
In 1970, the federal government passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, also known as OSHA. This law created a federal framework for requiring employers to ensure that their workplaces are safe for employees. It set the baseline for workplace rights and company responsibilities, which individual states are free to build upon. Under OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration was also created to monitor and enforce the law’s requirements, and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health was created to conduct research on how to improve workplace safety.
OSHA carefully lists requirements that employers must meet in order to establish a legally acceptable workplace environment. It also sets forth a variety of rights that workers are entitled to assert. In order to make sure that these requirements are followed, OSHA allows employees to file individual complaints against their employers and also provides for unannounced inspections of the workplace. This federal law covers almost every possible type of employee and employer, with the exception of state and local governments and family-owned farms.Employer Responsibilities and Employee Rights Under OSHA
OSHA requires all employers to maintain a workplace environment that is as safe and healthy for employees as is reasonable under the circumstances. This includes identifying and preventing clear hazards in the workplace, such as providing safety equipment for people who operate dangerous machinery and preventing obvious hazards like uneven surfaces. OSHA also requires employees to prevent or minimize the risk of employee illness, such as ensuring that employees are not exposed to dangerous chemicals or toxic substances. In order to guide employers in their responsibilities, the law sets forth certain safety regulations for employers, with emphasis on four types of work: general industry, construction, maritime and agriculture.
Employers must post OSHA posters in public areas that clearly list employee rights and responsibilities. They also must maintain records of work-related incidents, injuries, and complaints in a manner that is accessible to workers. Employers are required to comply with all relevant OSHA safety regulations and ensure that employees who exercise their rights under the law are not retaliated against.
Employees have a variety of means to enforce workplace safety if they believe a problem or lapse exists. At its core, OSHA gives employees the right to work an environment that is free from clear safety hazards. In order to implement the practical realities of that right, the law clearly states that employees can:
- Access information about OSHA standards and employer requirements;
- Make a complaint to the federal government for a violation of the law;
- Be protected from retaliation by an employer, including having names withheld from the complaint when it is shared with the employer;
- Be notified of, and involved in, OSHA inspections and the results of those inspections; and
- Receive proper training that ensures the safe use of products or equipment.
If you are a Massachusetts worker who feels your rights under OSHA are being restricted or violated, a knowledgeable workplace accident attorney may be able to help. At Kantrovitz & Associates, we can advise you on how to assert your rights. This may involve filing an appropriate complaint or seeking action against your employer for its retaliatory or discriminatory response. If you live in the Boston region, or in Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, or Plymouth Counties, please call us to set up a free initial consultation at 800-367-0871, or contact us online.