Occupational Safety and Health Act Businesses

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 What Occupations Does OSHA Cover?

In general, OSHA standards apply to limited occupations in limited industries. Currently, there are four broad industry categories for businesses which fall under The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, including:

  • General industry;
  • Construction;
  • Maritime and longshoring; and
  • Agriculture.

Within these four categories, there are certain businesses which are excluded from the Act or which may have additional requirements.

What Types of Limitations Are There on the Application of OSHA in the General Industry Category?

General industry standards apply to all employers that are covered. There are special standards which may exist for:

  • Bakery equipment;
  • Laundry machinery;
  • Sawmills; and
  • Similar items.

The specific working conditions in the general industry category may be subject to additional standards which are contained in other standards, including:

  • Construction;
  • Maritime;
  • Longshoring; or
  • Agricultural standards.

What Types of Businesses Fall into the Construction Category?

Construction standards apply to an employer with employees who are engaged in construction work. Construction work is defined as work for construction, alteration and/or repair, which includes painting and decorating.

Construction management, engineering, and architectural firms are subject to construction standards so long as their responsibilities are for more than just the supervision of conformity with construction rules.

What Types of Businesses Fall into the Maritime and Longshoring Category?

The category of maritime and longshoring covers businesses which are involved in:

  • Ship repairing;
  • Ship building;
  • Shipbreaking;
  • General longshoring; and
  • Any repair of a vessel, which includes, but is not limited to:
    • alterations;
    • conversions;
    • installations;
    • cleaning;
    • painting; and
    • maintenance work.

This category also includes businesses which are involved in:

  • Construction of vessels, which includes:
    • the installations of machinery and equipment;
    • the breaking down of a vessel’s structure for the purpose of crapping the vessel, which includes the removal of equipment, great, or any component part of the vessel; and
    • the moving, loading, unloading, or handling of ship’s stores, gear, etc. in, out, into, in, or on any vessel.

What Types of Business Are Covered in the Agricultural Category?

OSHA has not defined agricultural operation. However, Congress has limited the application of OSHA to any operation which is involved in:

  • The growing or harvesting of crops;
  • The raising of livestock or poultry; or
  • Related activities which are conducted by farmers, on sites including:
    • farms;
    • ranches;
    • orchards;
    • dairy farms; or
    • similar establishments.

How Can I Report an OSHA Violation?

It is important for an individual to understand what businesses are regulated by OSHA and when OSHA conducts inspections. The government schedules OSHA inspections, including:

  • Programmed inspections, which are regularly scheduled and are in high hazard industries, including oil and gas;
  • Investigation of imminent dangers, which includes any condition or practice which could reasonably be expected to cause serious physical harm or death to an employee;
  • Investigation of complaints, because OSHA is required to investigate complaints which are made by an employee or a case which is referred to them; and
  • Faulty and catastrophe investigation, which includes any work-related incidents that result in the in-patient hospitalization of three or more employees or the death of an employee.

If an individual believes that there has been an OSHA violation at their job or if they have experienced an OSHA violation, they have a legal right to report that violation and request that OSHA inspect the workplace. The individual does not have to know which specific OSHA standard was violated.

In order to file an OSHA complaint, an individual would take the following steps:

  • File a complaint as soon as they notice the violation or hazard. This is because OSHA can only cite a business for violations that are currently active or existed within the prior six months;
  • Complete the OSHA complaint form by mail, online, or by fax, and submit the form to an OSHA Area or Regional office. Provide their contact information in the complaint; and
  • Contact their local OSHA office about any questions regarding the complaint, especially if there is an immediate emergency situation that relates to the OSHA violation.

After an individual files the complaint, OSHA will determine whether or not an investigation should be done. If an investigation is necessary, OSHA will conduct it and proceed accordingly.

An individual may be contacted by OSHA in order to obtain more information.

What is OSHA Wrongful Termination?

As previously discussed, OSHA, or The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is responsible for ensuring the safety of employees at work. Their mission is to prevent work-related illnesses, injuries, illnesses, and deaths by requiring employers to provide working conditions which are free from known dangers.

Wrongful termination, also referred to as unlawful termination, is a term in employment law which refers to when an employer fires an employee for an illegal or unauthorized reason. This includes reasons which:

  • Violate federal, state, or local laws;
  • Go against public policy; or
  • Breach the terms of an employment agreement.

Wrongful termination may occur when an employer terminates an employee who refused to obey work instructions which were illegal. This may include an unlawful activity, such as not complying with safety regulations for a certain job task or even requesting the commit a more serious crime, such as a felony.

Wrongful termination may also occur when an employer disregards their own company policies regarding the termination process. For example, if an employer does not follow the proper steps when releasing an employee from their position.

Currently, the majority of workers are considered to be at-will employees. This means, in general, that employers can terminate their employees at any time and for any reason, or even for no reason at all.

In general, an employer is not permitted to terminate an employee due to any of the following reasons:

  • A protected status under state and federal civil rights laws, including:
    • Race;
    • Ethnicity;
    • Gender;
    • Disability;
    • Pregnancy; and
    • Others;
  • If an employee engaged in whistleblowing, or, when the employee reported a violation to a government agency or company leadership; and
  • The employee refused to engage in an illegal activity in the workplace.

In addition, federal law recognizes that it is illegal for employers to terminate an employee for reporting an employer OSHA violation.

Can I File a Lawsuit Against my Employer for OSHA Wrongful Termination?

Pursuant to OSHA laws, no, an individual cannot file a personal lawsuit against their employer for OSHA wrongful termination. Only OSHA is permitted to file a federal lawsuit under this law.

There are, however, other causes of action that an individual may have under federal or state employment laws. For example, if their termination can be linked to discrimination which is based on the protected classes discussed above.

It is important to note that many of these claims have strict fling procedures. In general, the first step in the majority of federal discrimination cases is for an individual to file an administrative complaint.

If an individual does not file their complaint within the required time frame, their claim may automatically be dismissed.

Should I Contact a Lawyer Regarding my OSHA Problems?

It is essential to have the assistance of a worker’s compensation lawyer if you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to OSHA and your business. If you are a business owner of a business which is subject to OSHA regulations, you will need to be up to date on OSHA rules and their applicability.

Your lawyer can advise you regarding the applicable standards for your business. They can also assist you in planning to meet those standards.

If any issues arise with your business related to OSHA regulations, your lawyer can represent you and assist you in your communications with OSHA.

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