Employees in Pennsylvania go to work every day with the expectation that they will safely make it home again after the workday ends. Workplace accidents and injuries are an unfortunate reality, but you are not on your own when it comes to protecting yourself and your future after an injury.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration protects employees from hazardous working conditions and regulates most businesses to watch for potential dangers. OSHA regulations cover a wide variety of workplace hazards, from exposure to asbestos and bloodborne pathogens to protection from falls and machinery regulations.
OSHA reports that since its inception in 1970, the number of employees killed on the job fell from 14,000 per year to 4,500 per year in 2010, even with the American workforce more than doubling over that time.
Additionally, OSHA-regulated employers receive protection from significant financial responsibility for workplace injuries on their sites.
States can either develop individual plans for worker protections or have coverage from the federal OSHA program. The federal OSHA program covers most private sector employees and some federal employees in Pennsylvania.
Those not covered by OSHA receive protections from Pennsylvania state laws including the 1984 Worker and Community Right-to-Know Act and the 1990 Hazardous Material Emergency Planning and Response Act.
What if I see something dangerous at work?
Think about the signs in the airport; see something, say something.
The first step should be talking to your supervisor or employer. They have an interest in following workplace safety rules, so they would ideally work to fix the issue. If this does not work, you have the option to go beyond the employer to resolve the issue.
If you think your workplace is violating a worker protection guaranteed by OSHA, you have the right to file a complaint and request an inspection of the workplace.
Working to address issues early can help you and your employer avoid dealing with potential liability after an accident. They could be subject to financial responsibility if an accident happens and turns out to be the result of a workplace violation. According to OSHA, employers lose over $53 billion per year just from workers' compensation costs. That is over $1 billion per week.
You employer legally cannot punish you for filing a complaint with OSHA. Federal laws protect you from retaliation or punishment for voicing concern about your workplace.
A safe workplace is better for everyone
Everyone benefits from safe work conditions. Employees know they are safe on the job and will make it home to their families at the end of the day. Employers know they can protect their businesses from financial trouble by following the rules set by state and federal agencies. Additionally, customers know they are purchasing products and services made safely and ethically.
Federal and state workplace protections are available to you. Know your options and do what you can to keep yourself and others safe on the job.