In 1970, a regulation was enacted by the Department of Labor to safeguard the rights of construction workers and their safety while in the workplace. This is the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which aims to reduce hazards in the workplace while implementing safety and health programs for all employees involved. This law gives rise to several rights and responsibilities that employees have, which include:
- The right to review copies of the appropriate and applicable rules, standards and regulations - all of which should be available in the workplace
- The right to gain access to relevant medical records and employee exposure
- The right to request the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to perform an inspection in the workplace, if the employee believes that dangerous, hazardous and risky conditions exist. Furthermore, an authorized representative of the employees should be able to accompany the compliance officer as the inspection is being conducted
- The right to not disclose their information to the employer when filing a written complaint to the OSHA
- The right to be free of any retaliatory and discriminatory action against them as a result of a complaint that they filed
Apart from these, the law also requires the employers to:
- Provide work and a workplace that is free from known and recognized hazards that could endanger the health and lives of its employees
- Inform its employees of the standards that is applicable to the workplace
- Display in a highly visible place the poster of OSHA which lists down the employees' rights and responsibilities as part of the law
- Create a written and comprehensive communication program that will cover important information such as labeling of containers as well as data sheets regarding the safety of materials present in the workplace. Furthermore, a robust training program for its employees should be established.
- Inform the employees that medical and exposure records are available and accessible upon request
If an employee believes that a hazard exists and is not being addressed by the employer, then he or she should contact an OSHA area office by filing a written complaint. If the complaint merits enough concern that such danger exists and is hazardous to the health and lives of everyone in the workplace, then an inspection is likely to follow. As mentioned, the inspection is to be done by an officer of the OSHA, and can be accompanied by a representative of the employee body - one who is chosen by the employees themselves and not the employer. The inspection may involve only the specified areas mentioned in the complaint, or an overall check of the whole workplace.
Once the inspection is conducted, the OSHA inspector will then convene with the employer and the employee representative to discuss the details of the hazards that have been found.
If you have fallen victim to construction hazards that were not addressed by your employer (and should have been), contact The Kyle Law Firm to discuss your rights and your options of filing a personal injury case.