Occupational Safety and Health

Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work by requiring employers to sustain proper and safe workplaces free of danger for their employees. The Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (known as OSHA) to set and enforce protective workplace safety and health standards.

While it is easy to imagine that companies manufacturing hazardous chemicals might be randomly inspected for worker safety, employees have the right to a safe workplace no matter what industry they work in. In 2011, OSHA found violations in Illinois businesses ranging from grain elevators to pet food manufacturers. If you think your employer has violated to the law and created an unsafe workplace environment, what can you do? You can file a complaint to have OSHA inspect your workplace if you believe your employer is not following OSHA standards.

OSHA provides most workers with the rights to:

  1. Ask OSHA to inspect your workplace. An employee initiated inspection at an Illinois trucking company resulted in violations for workers operating unsafe forklifts and failing to provide proper eyewash facilities for workers who had been exposed to corrosive chemicals.
  2. Exercise their rights under the law without fearing retaliation and discrimination by their employer. OSHA protects workers from retaliation such as being transferred, denial of a raise, having hours reduced, being fired, or punished in any other way. If your employer does one of these things to you, file a complaint at http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/worker/complain.html within 30 days of the alleged discrimination.
  3. Receive information and training about hazards. An Illinois grocery store was cited for not establishing and implementing written procedures to maintain the integrity of the refrigeration equipment.
  4. Get copies of test results done to find hazards in the workplace.
  5. Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.

The only workers not covered by the OSHA Federal Act or an OSHA- approved state program are people who are:

  1. Self- employed
  2. Immediate family members of farm employers who do not employ non-family members
  3. Employed in an industry where the workplace hazards are regulated by another Federal agency (for example the Federal Aviation Administration or the Coast Guard).

After the investigation/compliant is complete, if the inspector finds violations of OSHA standards, OSHA may issue citations and fines. The citation may outline how to fix a particular issue as well as give a timetable for when the issue will be fixed.

If you are injured on the job and need assistance to determine your rights, contact Howard Ankin & Associates.