If a company fails to comply with safety standards outlined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), you may be in serious danger. If you are hurt at work, it may be your first instinct to blame your employer for unsafe working conditions. What are your rights? Who is responsible? Who will pay for your injuries?
South Carolina OSHA and Workers' Rights
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires all employers to protect employees from hazardous working conditions, dangerous machinery, toxic chemicals, and extreme cold or heat. In South Carolina, OSHA plays a key role in keeping workers safe across the state by offering safety consultations, publishing information about common workplace injuries and safety on the job, and investigating claims of employer negligence as filed by employees.
All workers are entitled to safe and healthy working conditions. OSHA guarantees workers with the right to:
- Ask OSHA for a formal inspection of their workplace
- Use rights under the law without fear of retaliation or discrimination
- Receive information and training about hazards, how to prevent injury, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace
- Get copies of test results following a hazard inspection
- Review records of work-related injuries
- Get copies of their medical records
All companies must provide employees with a safe working environment, free of serious hazards, and follow all OSHA safety and health standards . Employers are responsible for all of the following:
- Finding and properly handling safety and health problems, eliminating or reducing hazards by making changes in working conditions
- Informing all employees about potential hazards through proper training, labeling, alarm systems, color coding, chemical information sheets, and other methods
- Keeping accurate records of work-related accidents, injuries, illnesses, and disease
- Performing regular tests, exams, and medical evaluations as required by some OSHA standards
- Posting OSHA citations, illness and injury data, and the OSHA poster in a highly-visible area
- Notifying OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace accident in which there is a fatality or more than 3 workers go to a hospital for treatment
Filing a Complaint
If you are concerned about your working conditions, it is recommended that you notify your employer so they can take the necessary measures to resolve any issues. You can then file a complaint with OSHA at any time. You should not leave work or refuse to work because you have filed a complaint. If your working environment clearly presents a risk of serious bodily harm or even death, and there is not enough time for OSHA to inspect the workplace, you can talk to an attorney about your legal right to refuse to work, as long as you have notified your employer about the unsafe conditions.
OSHA protects all workers who file any complaints about unhealthful working conditions. You cannot be transferred, denied a raise, fired, or punished in any other way simply because you used your rights given to you under the OSH Act. If you have been discriminated against for using your rights, you can file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the unfair punishment to report your employer.
Work Injuries and Workers' Compensation
If you were hurt at work due to unsafe working conditions, you should notify your employer immediately of the hazardous environment and your injuries. Your employer may be subject to fines and penalties for not following OSHA safety regulations, but your medical expenses and any lost wages should be covered by your employer's workers' compensation insurance company. For assistance in filing a workers' compensation claim, you can discuss your situation with an experienced South Carolina workers' comp lawyer, who can help you get the money you deserve.