Occupational health laws deal with hazards and safety conditions in the workplace. These laws often place an emphasis on job-related injuries, though they can also include many other issues. Employee health is a main concern of employers, since the health status of workers can affect the overall operations of the company.
Various laws and government departments regulate health and safety in the workplace. One of the main federal government departments that oversee the regulation of a workplace’s health and safety is the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The Occupation Health and Safety Administration handles complaints from employees in both the private and public sectors, and it conducts health and safety investigations for a wide variety of issues and incidents.
OSHA regulations cover both safety and health aspects in the workplace. The terms “safety” and “health” are often used in combination or interchangeably. However, each term refers to separate sets of specific issues. “Safety” refers more to dangerous conditions in the workplace that might cause injuries. These might include falling object, trip hazards, electrocution/burn hazards, and other dangers.
The term “health” refers to the state of physical wellness of the individual worker. This encompasses issues such as:
- Occupational diseases and industrial diseases (i.e., diseases that are linked to a specific line of work, such as coal workers’ pneumoconiosis)
- Repetitive stress injuries or chronic pain
- Mental or psychological distress caused by working conditions
- Effects of long-term handling of toxic substances at work
Of course, there may be some overlap between safety issues and health issues. Occupational health laws place various burdens on employees to ensure that work conditions are safe and promote an atmosphere of health for workers. Failure to observe these standards can lead to legal consequences for the employer.
Most occupational health issues and incidents are initially handled through an OSHA complaint, which will prompt OSHA to investigate the claim and the workplace where the complaint was generated. An OSHA investigation may uncover more details regarding the complaint. Afterwards, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will prescribe a remedy for the situation, such as an adjustment in company safety guidelines or a cessation of a certain work practice.
However, in the event that an OSHA filing does not completely remedy the situation, it may be necessary to file a private lawsuit. This can happen for more serious cases where the violation has led to a larger economic loss that can be directly quantified into a monetary amount. These may also be necessary for more widespread health concerns that affect a large number of workers.
Occupational health issues can often involve some complex legal issues. It may be in your best interests to hire an employment attorney in your area if you need to file an employment law claim. Your lawyer will be able to perform legal research to determine what your options are under state laws and under OSHA requirements. Also, if you need to appear in court, your attorney can provide legal representation during such times.