When people talk about workers’ rights, they usually discuss civil rights, such as the right to a workplace free of harassment or discrimination. However, there are a different set of laws that give workers the right to a safe workplace.
Worker safety is enshrined in law
The 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act says employers must provide you with a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards … likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the government body responsible for setting workplace safety standards and enforcing them.
What does OSHA expect of employers?
OSHA expects employers to comply with your rights. These include:
- The right to training: Effective training is essential to reduce the risk of accidents. If English is not your first language, your employer must make provisions to ensure you receive the information you need in a language you understand.
- The right to protective equipment and clothing: All workplaces contain potential hazards of some type. You can mitigate many of these through personal protective equipment (PPE), which your employer must provide.
- The right to ask for information: Your employer should possess information about the OSHA standards applicable to their industry. If you wish to find out more, they should provide you with access to this and workplace safety records.
- The right to ask your employer to meet OSHA standards: Whether it is your first day at work, or you have been in the company for years and are scared about losing your job, you have the right to speak up.
- The right to report breaches of safety standards: Your employer cannot take retaliatory action against you if you report them to OSHA. You have the right to file a report, meet with OSHA inspectors when they come and access their findings.
If injured at work, you have the right to claim on your workers’ compensation insurance. Seek legal help if you are injured or feel there are problems with workplace safety.