Holding Employers Fully Liable for Injuries Sustained in the Workplace

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Private and government employers in the United States are mandated to provide for their employees a safe and healthy work environment to significantly reduce, if not totally eliminate, occurrences of accidents in the workplace. This mandate is issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), a federal law that was enacted by the US Congress in 1970. This Act requires the assurance of a safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by;

In 1971, OSH Act gave birth to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is tasked to fully and strictly implement all the safety standards mandated by the Act, such as a workplace free from mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, exposure to toxic chemicals, poisonous gases, radiation, unsanitary conditions, excessive level of noise, and other hazards.

Another mandate that the OSHA enforces is the Hazard Communication Standard or HCS. This federal mandate, which was passed into law in 1980 and which took effect in 1986, gives those exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace the right to be informed about any type of danger they may be exposed to and how they can protect themselves from these dangers. In addition, the HCS, otherwise called the Right-to-Know Law or the Worker Right-to-Know Legislation requires manufacturers and importers to attach Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) and warning labels on their hazardous products. Besides showing on the product label whether a chemical is poisonous or hazardous, there should also be information on the product’s potential effects to health, precautions for use, safe storage suggestions,emergency first aid instructions, and contact numbers (of manufacturers) for further information.

Since different types of work environment require a unique set of safety measures, employers should take full responsibility in implementing these necessary measures to prevent accidents from occurring. Risk assessment, provision of the necessary protective equipment, safety training, and installation of safety barriers are just few of the precautions that can be observed in work premises in anticipation of potential problems. Though OSHA maintains that accidents can be prevented, this can only be possible if owners of firms and their managers observe government safety standards, and the employees follow company safety rules.

According to Ritter & Associates, accidents due to violations of safety code and/or failure to provide adequate safety equipment can render employers fully liable for whatever injuries their employees may sustain. While, under normal circumstances, occupational injuries would not entitle one to pursue legal action and would instead be governed by workers’ compensation law, if the injury is the result of demonstrable, egregious negligence on the part of one’s employer, a civil lawsuit may be the appropriate response.