OSHA reports that thousands of workers die every year. While the chances of a work related fatality are rare, tens of thousands of workers are injured every year while at work. Fortunately, OSHA requires that employers in every state provide their employees with the tools and training needed to safely perform their duties. Here are three basic legal rights that every worker in America enjoys regardless of their location or legal status.
The Right to Safety
OSHA mandates that employees have the right to a safe and healthy work environment. Certain industries are more dangerous than others and have elevated levels of injuries, such as construction and manufacturing. However, some employers ignore safety regulations at the cost of their employee’s health and well-being. Failure to protect workers from safety hazards is prohibited by OSHA. Instead, employees have the right file complaints with their state’s OSHA agency in order to improve working conditions. Even though that most employers make active efforts to keep their employees safe, injuries and illnesses still happen on the job. Therefore, employees have the right to seek medical attention and workers’ compensation benefits.
The Right to Receive Workers’ Compensation
Employers cannot punish employees who are injured on the job or prohibit them from filing a report. Almost all states require that injured workers report the injury within time frame, which is usually 24 hours after the incident. Depending on the circumstances, it may not be possible, but injured workers must inform their employers of their injury as soon as possible. Filing a report starts the workers’ compensation process. Almost all employers are required to maintain some sort of workers’ compensation insurance. As companies experience higher injury rates, their workers compensation rates will naturally increase, so it’s in their best interest to maintain a safe workplace. Filing a report formally notifies the employer, state safety agency, insurance company and the legal system of the injury.
Because workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state, the actual rights afforded to injured employees and the legal regulations that ensure safety also differ. However, there are basic rights that OSHA, which is a federal agency, guarantees injured workers. First, injured workers have the right to file a claim through the state’s industrial board or the workers compensation court. Second, injured workers have the right to return to work if they are released by a doctor. Third, workers who are unable to return to work, whether temporarily or permanently, have the right to disability compensation. Fourth, injured workers have the right to appeal legal decisions regarding their workers’ compensation claim.
Finally, if the on-the-job injury was caused by third-party negligence, then the worker may be entitled to sue through the civil courts.