What Are OSHA Safety Topics?

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 What Is OSHA?

The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or “OSHA,” is a federal organization that works with private sector workers and some public sector employees in order to assure healthy and safe working conditions. This is done by enforcing workplace standards and laws.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration aids employers and employees by holding work-related health and safety to a considerably high standard, which is done by receiving complaints regarding businesses that may have hazardous conditions. Simply put, OSHA’s mission is to prevent work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths. OSHA accomplishes this mission by requiring employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free and clear of known dangers.

The Act gives both employees and their representatives the right to file a complaint, as well as request an OSHA inspection of their workplace. They may do so if they believe that their employer is not adhering to the standards set out by OSHA in maintaining safe working conditions. As an employee, you are not required to know whether a specific OSHA standard has been violated in order to file a complaint; you must only believe that your workplace is not maintaining safe and healthy working conditions.

OSHA citations are only issued for current violations, or those that existed within the past 6 months. As such, you should file any complaints with OSHA as soon as possible upon noticing a workplace hazard or lack of compliance with OSHA standards.

Employers are required to comply with OSHA standards as they detailed in the act, or they are subject to fines and penalties by OSHA. If details regarding a specific hazard are not covered in the Act, employers and employees must adhere to Section 5(a)(1) of the act, which would be the “general duty” clause.

What Are OSHA Safety Topics?

OSHA provides a list of topics that may be of concern to those employers and employees who may have questions involving their right to a safe work environment, which is further discussed below. This list of topics is known as the “OSHA Safety Topics” list. OSHA provides specific information for employers and employees as well as OSHA standards for that topic when available. These topics generally form the basis of many OSHA complaints and workplace lawsuits.

The OSHA topics list is quite exhaustive; a few examples of some of the most commonly referenced OSHA topics include:

  • Agricultural Processes and Operations;
  • Carcinogens;
  • Chemical Hazards and Toxic Substances;
  • Fall Protection;
  • Hazardous Waste;
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders;
  • Occupational Conditions, such as Occupational Asthma, Occupational Heat Exposure,
  • Occupational Noise Exposure, and other such conditions;
  • Radiation;
  • Ventilation and Indoor Air Quality;
  • Welding and other issues associated with working with metal; and
  • Wood Dust.

To reiterate, there are numerous other topics which are generally included in this list. Researching this list can often be a good way for an employee to learn whether they have been subject to or exposed to a safety and health violation at work. However, to reiterate, a working knowledge of this list is not required in order to make an OSHA complaint. Remedies for violations generally include damages awards for:

  • Lost wages;
  • Medical expenses;
  • Damaged property; and
  • Other out of pocket costs resulting from the injurious incident.

What Is A Safe Working Environment?

Workers who are covered under either federal or state OSHA regulations will be provided with certain rights. This includes the right to:

  • Report an illness or injury that is thought to be caused by unsafe working conditions without fear of retaliation, such as termination, suspension, etc.;
  • Work in a place that is free from unsafe machinery, other equipment, and/or severe levels of exposure to toxic chemicals;
  • Receive necessary work safety equipment, such as gloves and goggles;
  • File a request for OSHA to conduct an investigation of an unsafe and/or dangerous condition in the workplace;
  • View reports of threats or dangers that an OSHA investigator has uncovered during their investigation;
  • Refuse to work in a place of business that has unsafe and/or dangerous working conditions;
  • Receive training and educational resources associated with compliance requirements with OSHA; and
  • Request that an employer remedy any violations of OSHA standards.

It is important to note that because OSHA regulations may also be adopted by states, there could be additional rights that employees are entitled to under the laws of the state in which they work.

An unsafe working condition can be described as a dangerous or hazardous condition in the workplace, to the extent that it prevents a worker from being able to do their job properly. Some unsafe working conditions examples may include, but are not limited to:

  • Being exposed to toxic chemicals or substances at work, such as asbestos;
  • Being required to perform daily job duties without the appropriate safety gear, such as safety goggles;
  • Being forced to use broken machinery or equipment because an employer refuses to have it safely repaired;
  • Working near exposed electrical wires, or working with hazardous materials;
  • Disabling or removing parts that would ensure that devices or equipment are safe, such as safety triggers; and
  • Not receiving the proper training, or not being trained at all, to use or work with potentially dangerous and/or hazardous work materials, machinery, or substances.

How Do I File An OSHA Complaint?

If you believe that there is a serious hazard at your workplace, or that your employer is not following OSHA standards, you should file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible after noticing the hazard or lack of compliance. This is so that OSHA will be allowed to issue a citation to correct the issue. To reiterate, OSHA citations may only be issued for current violations, or violations that occurred within the past 6 months.

Some of the ways in which to file an OSHA complaint include:

  • Filing a Complaint Through Fax or Mail: Visit OSHA’s website and download their complaint form, or request a copy of the form from your local OSHA regional or area office. You will complete and mail the form back to your local OSHA regional or area office. Written complaints will generally include your name, address, and telephone number so that OSHA may follow up with you. Complaints should be signed by you or your representative in order to ensure an onsite OSHA inspection;
  • Filing a Complaint By Phone: OSHA staff can discuss your complaint and respond to your questions. However, if there is a current emergency or serious hazard that is immediately life-threatening, you should call your local OSHA regional or area office immediately in order to inspect and correct the condition; and
  • Filing a Complaint Online: Fill out the online complaint form on OSHA’s website. Complaints that are received online from employees in OSHA-approved states will be forwarded to the appropriate state plan for response. It is important to note that written complaints that are received by OSHA through mail or fax are more likely to result in an on-site OSHA inspection when compared to those filed by phone or online.

When speaking with an OSHA officer, or when you describe your complaint to a lawyer, you must present specific information such as:

  • A description of the danger or lack of compliance with OSHA standards;
  • Where exactly the danger exists; and
  • Whether you have presented the problem to your employer prior to filing your complaint.

Do I Need An Attorney For Assistance With OSHA Safety Topics?

If you need legal advice or representation for OSHA safety topics, contact an experienced and local worker’s compensation lawyer. An attorney will be most aware in terms of your state’s workplace safety laws, and can file an OSHA complaint on your behalf.

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