Did you know that every year over 4 million workplace injuries and illnesses are reported? That may seem shocking but with the amount of Americans in the workforce, it seems more reasonable. The United States Department of Labor has a specific agency dedicated to workplace safety; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA.
The United States government realized there was an issue after multiple incidents such as the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire. Though this blaze happened over 100 years ago, it remains one of the worst work-related disasters in the United States to this day. 156 of 500 workers died because there weren’t proper fire escapes and the doors were locked.
What does osha do?
In 1970, President Nixon signed the OSH Act making all employers legally responsible for providing safe working conditions.
Simply put, OSHA ensures that no matter how dangerous your job is – your employer is doing everything in their power to make your job as safe as possible.
what are my rights?
OSHA takes many different aspects into consideration and these are the rights almost employees are entitled to;
- Right to a safe and healthful workplace
This means everything from proper noise control, to fall protection, to ensuring that all machinery is properly stored. This is hands down the most important and easiest to spot aspect of these rights.
- Right to know about hazardous chemicals
Did you know your workplace has (or should have) a binder filled with all of the various Material Safety Data Sheets? Ask your manager, this is essential if there’s a fire. Emergency services need those MSDS binders to know what they’re going into in terms of carcinogens and explosives.
- Right to information about injuries and illnesses in your workplace
You actually can request copies of all of the injuries and illnesses in your workplace from the last five years! If you request it, your employer should be able to have it by the end of the next workday, per OSHA.
- Right to complain or request hazard correction from employer
You are 100% protected from being discriminated against or treated differently for bringing up workplace safety concerns at your job. Your managers or bosses may not hold that against you or they’ll be in violation of OSHA standards.
- Right to training
You are entitled to training when it pertains to workplace safety, as well. If you ask, your employer should be able to educate you on things like bloodborne pathogens, protective gear, and more.
- Right to hazard exposure and medical records
It’s possible for you to find out what toxic substances may be lurking in your workplace. Here is where you’ll find information on fungus, lead, bacteria, and more.
- Right to file a complaint with OSHA
You are allowed to anonymously (or publically) file a complaint with OSHA. You can file a complaint on their website, with a written letter, a telephone call, or a visit to your local OSHA office.
- Right to participate in an OSHA inspection
As an employee, you have the right to speak with an OSHA inspector during the inspection privately. You can voice any concerns you may have and any violations you may notice. These are important guidelines that are meant to save lives, not silly rules!
- Right to be free from retaliation for exercising safety and health rights
If you’re asked to do something that is clearly dangerous and the proper measures aren’t in place, you can refuse it. What’s even better, you can say “no” to this task and your employer can’t retaliate with pay cuts, hour cuts or other means of punishment.
- Worker responsibilities
An individual employee will not get cited for OSHA violations, rather the company. However, you are still expected to abide by and follow OSHA standards.
Are you interested in learning more about OSHA standards and safe work environments? Check out this course on workplace safety!