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Occupational Safety And Health (OSHA)


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, is a governmental agency that aims to provide, regulate, and enforce safety and health standards in various workplace settings. In the majority of situations, if employees have any complaints or concerns regarding safety at their workplace, they will have to file a complaint with OSHA.

OSHA works with private sector employees as well as some public sector employees in order to ensure their working conditions are healthy and safe by enforcing workplace laws and standards. OSHA holds employees and employers by holding work-related health and safety to a high standard by the complaints process regarding possible hazardous conditions in the workplace.

Filing a complaint may lead to an investigation by OSHA agents as well as further legal action, if needed. That ability for employees to report safety concerns as well as correct workplace issues is protected in the United States.

At the most basic level, the mission of OSHA is to prevent work-related:

  • Injuries;
  • Illnesses; and
  • Deaths.

OSHA accomplishes their mission by requiring an employer to provide employees with working conditions which are free from known dangers.

Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 is a law which provides employees and their representatives the right to file complaints and to request an inspection by OSHA of their workplace. Individuals can do this if they believe their employers are not following the standards which are set by OSHA in order to maintain safe working conditions.

Employees are not required to know whether or not a specific OSHA standard has been violated in order to file their complaint. An employee is only required to believe that their workplace is not maintaining safe and healthy workplace conditions.

An OSHA citation is only issued for current violations or violations which existed within the past 6 months. Therefore, an individual should seek to file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible after discovering a workplace hazard of a lack of compliance with OSHA standards.

A complaint from an employee or their representative is confidential and is taken very seriously by OSHA. an employer is required to comply with OSHA standards which are detailed in the Act or they may be subject to penalties and fines from OSHA.

There are four major categories which are governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, including:

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

If the details of a specific hazard are not covered in the Act, an employer and employee are required to adhere to Section 5(a)(1) of the act, known as the general duty clause.

This portion of the Act provides that an employer is required to provide, “a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to [their] employees.” An individual is granted numerous privileges as an employee under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, including the right to:

  • Receive proper training from an employer regarding safe workplace practices;
  • Request that an employer provide information regarding:
    • OSHA standards;
    • workplace injuries;
    • illnesses;
    • job hazards; and
    • other rights;
  • Request that an employer correct any dangers or safety violations; and
  • Find out the results of any inspection that is conducted by OSHA.

Work-Related Injury

A work-related injury is an injury that occurs during one's employment. Usually, a work injury or workplace injury is caused by the type of job that the individual is instructed to do at their job. The term also applies to injuries during work hours or while on the employment premises.

An employee hurt on the job is privileged to immediate medical care and temporary disability benefits while recovering. If the injury is more intense, the worker's compensation system also benefits for injuries resulting in a permanent disability.

Kinds of Businesses OSHA Inspects

OSHA is responsible for making sure businesses are meeting its standards. Notwithstanding, they can't inspect every business.

The government schedules OSHA reviews as follows:

  • Programmed Inspections: Regularly scheduled reviews that are in “high hazard” industries
  • Investigation of Imminent Dangers: Any condition or practices that could reasonably be expected to cause death or severe physical injury to workers.
  • Investigation of Complaints: OSHA is responsible for investigating complaints made by employees or cases referred to them.
  • Faulty and Catastrophe Investigations: Any work-related incident that results in the death of an employee or the in-patient hospitalization of three or more workers must be investigated.

Permanent and Stationary Status

To start the settlement process with your employer's insurance company, your treating physician must first declare that the condition caused by the work-related injury is permanent and stationary. In the physician's opinion, your condition will not be enhanced by current medical treatment because it has reached a plateau. It is important to review the Permanent and Stationary Report that your doctor writes for accuracy because it will be utilized to specify the compensation to which you are entitled as a settlement.

What If I Don't Agree with the Doctor's Report?

You should not start settling your claim with the insurance company if you disagree with the doctor's Permanent and Stationary Report issues. This includes problems like whether medical treatment will aid you either now or in the future, whether you will be able to return to the kind of work you performed before you were injured, or the extent of the disability.

You must object to the physician's report within 30 days of obtaining it. Both you and the insurance company have the right to evaluation by a different physician if either disagrees with the treating physician's report. You will need to pick a Qualified Medical Evaluator from a panel of physicians delivered by the insurance company. This is a difficult process and extremely critical to your ultimate settlement, so an attorney's counsel would be helpful.

Permanent Disability Rating

The permanent disability rating determines the amount of the settlement you can anticipate. It is determined by several factors, making its computation complex and involved. Each injury or impairment is given a percentage that varies for different body parts. The rating hinges on the results of medical tests and examinations, the extent of the pain the physician feels the injury caused, and the limitations the injured worker will face during future employment.

The same injury will affect one occupation differently from another, so the permanent disability rating is then further evaluated with another number representing your occupation. Your duties at work might mean that more than one number corresponding to a career could accurately be used. Depending on the number chosen, you may find that you are privileged to a larger or smaller settlement.

Best Way to Negotiate Workers Compensation Settlement

The best way to arrange a worker's compensation settlement is to hire an experienced workers' compensation attorney specializing in negotiating settlements. A workers' compensation attorney can present a demand letter to the defendant's insurance company that lays out the facts of your injury, the extent of your wounds, the damages you have incurred because of your injuries, and the amount you are demanding the insurance company to pay.

Once the demand letter is presented, there will be a negotiation stage until an agreement has been made on the amount of the settlement to be paid out by the insurance company.

Filing a Complaint with OSHA

As previously noted, if an individual believes that there is a serious hazard at their workplace or that their employer is not adhering to OSHA standards, they should file a complaint with OSHA. filing a complaint should be done as soon as possible after noticing the lack of compliance or hazard so that OSHA can issue a citation to the employer for the correct issue.

It is worth repeating that an OSHA citation may only be issued for a current violation or a violation which occurred within the past 6 months. There are many different ways an individual can file a complaint with OSHA, including:

  • Filing a complaint by fax or mail;
  • Filing a complaint by phone; or
  • Filing a complaint online.

An individual can visit OSHA's website and download the complaint form or request a copy of the complaint form from their local OSHA regional area office to complete and mail back to their local OSHA regional or area office. A written complaint will typically include certain information so that OSHA can follow up with the employee, including their:

  • Name;
  • Address; and
  • Telephone number.

The complaint should be signed by an individual's representative in order to ensure that an OSHA onsite inspection will occur. A complaint can also be filed by phone.

OSHA staff will be able to discuss an individual's complaint as well as respond to their questions. If, however, there is a current emergency or a serious hazard which is immediately life-threatening, they should call their local OSHA regional or area office immediately to inspect and correct the issue.

An individual may file their complaint online by filling out the complaint form on OSHA's website. A complaint which is received online in an OSHA-approved state will be forwarded to the appropriate state office for response.

It is important to be aware that a complaint which is received by OSHA by mail or fax is more likely to result in an on-site OSHA inspection. When an individual speaks with an OSHA officer or when they describe their complaint to an attorney, they must present certain information, including:

  • A description of the lack of compliance with OSHA standards or danger;
  • Where the danger exists; and
  • Whether the individual has presented the problem to their employer.

It is important to note that if an individual is a union member, they may benefit from speaking with their labor union prior to filing a complaint with OSHA. The individual's union may be able to represent them and file an OSHA complaint on their behalf.

In addition, they are likely to be in a better position to help an individual defend their claim. No matter whether an individual is a union or non-union employee, they may benefit from discussing your options and possible courses of action with a lawyer.

What Happens After Filing an OSHA Complaint?

After OSHA receives an individual's complaint which was filed through one of the methods that was listed above, OHSA will decide whether the concern will be investigated or inspected. If OSHA decides to investigate an individual's claim, they will likely contact the individual's employer, describe the complaint to them, and simply request that the employer remedy the issue.

After this, an individual's employer will have 5 days comply with OSHA standards and to respond to OSHA by:

  • Eliminating the hazard;
  • Beginning the process of eliminating the hazard; or
  • Outright denying the accusation against them.

OSHA may also conduct an on-site inspection of the complaint where they send out an inspector to visit and evaluate an individual's workplace.

An individual's employer then has 5 days to comply with OSHA standards and respond to OSHA by eliminating the hazard, beginning the process of eliminating the hazard, or outright denying the accusation. OSHA may also conduct an on-site inspection of an individual's complaint where they send out an inspector to visit and evaluate the workplace.

How Are OSHA Inspections Conducted?

Compliance officers conduct inspections. They generally are done without advance warning by state compliance inspectors.

Although a previous announcement isn't required, workplace inspections must typically be conducted at a suitable time, normally during the employer's regular work hours, and reasonably.

Does OSHA Need a Warrant to Inspect My Business?

When an OSHA compliance officer arrives at your workplace to perform an inspection, you have the right to request a warrant. If they cannot provide you with their warrant, you have the right to refuse entry.

OSHA may obtain a warrant from a judge. If you allow them entry without asking for a warrant or let them run their search despite not having a warrant after you've asked for one, you willingly agree to the search.

Small Business Exemption: OSHA

Businesses considered low-risk industries might be qualified for the small business exemption. Businesses with ten or fewer workers are exempted from programmed inspections so long as they have an occupational injury lost workday rate lower than the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the national average.

What Happens if OSHA Discovers a Violation?

If a workplace violation is discovered, OSHA will give you a citation. The citation charges you with a certain violation. It will also set a time for reducing or correcting the discovered violation. The citation will also include any proposed punishments.

It's essential to remember that employers only issue citations, even if the violation was created or caused by an employee.

Contesting OSHA's Findings if Their Inspections Turns Up Something

Yes, you can challenge the citation before the Review Commission. You also have the prospect of negotiating with OSHA to have the citation or penalties amended or removed or correcting the violations, and paying any penalties.

Defenses of OSHA Violations

You can defend against a citation by displaying any of the following:

  • You lacked knowledge of the violation;
  • Compliance with the standard was impossible or not feasible;
  • The offense was caused by an unexpected employee violation of your work rule;
  • No workers were exposed to a hazard; and
  • Compliance with the standard would have a greater threat to workers.

How Can A Lawyer Help Me With My OSHA Complaint?

OSHA sanctions can be very severe and difficult to fight. If you face an investigation, a local workers' compensation attorney can help you meet OSHA requirements.

If you were recently inspected, consult with an employment lawyer as the inspection is the beginning of a multi-step process, and you may have some defenses.

Although it is not a requirement for you to have a lawyer to file a complaint with OSHA, if you are in a situation which involves your health or safety while you are at the workplace, it is important to consult with an experienced worker's compensation lawyer who can assist you. Your lawyer can inform you of your rights and duties as an employee and assist you with communicating with OSHA in order to resolve your safety concerns.

A lawyer can provide assistance whether you are considering filing a complaint or you have already done so. Your attorney can assist with the complaint process and help ensure your complaint is filed correctly and effectively.