Employers have an ethical responsibility to protect employees to the best of their ability and within reason. They also have a legal imperative. The federal agency tasked with overseeing workplace safety is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA works with state agencies to protect workers.
OSHA reports that 5,333 people died on the job in 2019. This is the worst-case scenario, but thousands more suffer injuries daily on the job. Common accidents involve ladders, scaffolds, energy sources, trucks, and machinery. If your employer failed to protect you on the job, you may be able to take legal action.
Every job comes with potential hazards. Some jobs are more dangerous than others. Employers play a big role in making workplaces safe. When they fail to do their duty, people get hurt or even killed. These are some of the most dangerous jobs based on information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
These workers face several unsafe conditions, even when employees use best practices and follow safety standards. The risks vary by industry, and include accidents, falls, and exposure to hazardous substances:
Workers face all kinds of dangers on the job. One of the most insidious because it isn’t always obvious or visible is exposure to hazardous substances. Some of the typical contaminants workers may come into contact with cause serious health problems:
All employers have an ethical responsibility to compensate employees fairly, have reasonable expectations for their work, not discriminate unfairly, and provide a safe workplace. While the obligation exists, not all employers follow it without a legal component.
The Occupational Safety and Health law holds employers accountable for safety in the workplace. It outlines several responsibilities employers have when it comes to keeping workers safe. These are just a few of the things employers must provide for safety.
There are, unfortunately, many examples of employers failing to meet the standards set by OSHA. Too many are never discovered until someone gets hurt or killed.
One recent example tragically resulted in the deaths of six workers. A liquid nitrogen leak killed six people at a poultry processing plant in Georgia after a conveyor belt malfunctioned. OSHA cited the employer for failing to provide safe equipment and many other issues.
Also recently cited, a nursing home in Missouri exposed residents and employees to asbestos after a renovation job. OSHA cited the facility for failing to have a plan for the safe, contained removal of the asbestos materials.
Know your rights and the legal responsibilities of your employer in your specific industry. Armed with this knowledge, you can fight back against an unsafe workplace. OSHA gives workers the right to request an inspection and to report workplace safety hazards and injuries without retribution.
If you already suffered injuries or illness from an accident or exposure on the job, you may be able to take legal action. In some cases, the best thing to do is to file a claim for workers’ compensation. In other instances, you may need to sue an employer or other company over the incident.
A lawyer can help you decide what to do next. Because of workers’ compensation, many people believe a lawsuit is not possible when you get hurt on the job. It depends on the situation. As an example, the courts recently allowed a Pennsylvania asbestos lawsuit to proceed. A retired teacher was diagnosed with and died from mesothelioma after asbestos exposure in her school. The district tried to fight the lawsuit, but the Commonwealth Court agreed she and her family could proceed.
Wrongful treatment by an employer can lead to serious illness, injuries, and in the worst cases, fatalities. Employees have a basic right to safety, and they also have a right to take legal action when the worst happens.
Page Reviewed and Edited by
Dave Halpern, Mesothelioma Attorney
Dave Halpern is a Pennsylvania and New Jersey mesothelioma attorney with over 30 years of experience. He has investigated hundreds of cases and won numerous multimillion dollar settlements and verdicts for asbestos victims. Dave prides himself on working tirelessly to help his clients in their time of need.