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You are your own protector in the workplace

Regardless of the industry in which you work, you have the right to be safe. Some Pennsylvania employers prioritize profits over employee safety, leaving workers to protect themselves from harm. If your safety is on the line, you might benefit from learning about your rights -- if you are not an independent contractor.

State and federal laws require employers to provide work environments that will not threaten the safety of employees. In fact, company owners must take certain steps to protect workers from harm. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces safety regulations for all industries, and compliance is mandatory.

What does OSHA expect from your employer?

OSHA aims to protect you from one-time injuries and occupational diseases. Furthermore, the agency's goal is to protect you from any known hazards that have the potential to cause serious injuries or death. The following are but some of your employer's obligations to OSHA:

  • Job safety: Your boss must post OSHA safety notices in your workplace.
  • Safe environment: Your work environment must be free of safety and health hazards that pose threats of severe injuries or death.
  • Training: You must receive the necessary safety training.
  • Record keeping: Your employer must keep records of all injuries and deaths that occur in the workplace along with any incidents of exposure to materials that are hazardous.
  • Compliance: OSHA safety standards prescribe rules that apply to maintenance of equipment, hazardous chemical storage, fire protection and personal protective equipment.

What steps can you take if your safety is at risk?

You have the right to protect yourself from harm in your workplace. OSHA is your ally, and the imminence of danger will determine your actions. The following two situations may occur:

  • When you are in imminent danger: If a hazard exists that could cause death or severe injury, you may refuse to work and report the situation to OSHA. However, there must be a reasonable belief of an extremely dangerous condition, and only if your employer refuses to remedy and eliminate the danger. In addition, there must be too little time to file a report about the danger with OSHA, and if you have no alternative, you may refuse to work until your employer removes the risk.
  • When there is no imminent danger: If you identify a dangerous situation in your workplace, you can report it to your employer -- in writing might be the best way to do it. If your employer takes no action to address the hazard, you may file a report with OSHA about the complaint, and the lack of action.

Your rights to compensation

If a dangerous condition in your workplace causes an injury or illness, you have the right to pursue financial relief through the Pennsylvania workers' compensation insurance program. The severity of your injury will determine the benefits you will receive. You can consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can explain your rights and navigate the complicated claims process on your behalf.

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