As an employee in New York, you have a right to a safe workplace. Not only does safe mean free from discrimination and retaliation, but it includes the physical working environment you are in. But what are your workplace safety rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and what can you do if those protections have been violated? Brown Kwon & Lam have your New York employment rights answers.
What is the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) was created to ensure the “safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women; by authorizing enforcement of the standards developed under the Act; by assisting and encouraging the States in their efforts to assure safe and healthful working conditions; by providing for research, information, education, and training in the field of occupational safety and health…”
Under the Act, employees are given certain rights and protections. This includes:
- The right to receive training.
- The right to request information about worker injuries and illnesses, job hazards, and workers’ rights.
- The right to request your employer corrects hazards or violations.
- The right to file an OSHA violation.
- The right to be involved in an OSHA inspection and investigation.
- The right to find the results of the OSHA inspection and surrounding investigations.
What obligations do employers have under OSHA?
Under this act, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for employees. This includes eliminating or notifying employees of the potential risks of serious hazards, following OSHA guidelines on safety and health standards, and correcting any health problems that may exist.
Such hazards may include improper ventilation when working with harmful chemicals or failure to implement safety protocols on machinery and equipment.
In addition, employers must also:
- Display the official OSHA poster that describes rights and responsibilities.
- Inform workers about hazards through training, labels, alarms, color-coded systems, chemical information sheets, etc.
- Train workers in the language they understand and primarily speak.
- Keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- Perform quality control tests in the workplace, such as air sampling, water testing, etc.
- Provide hearing exams or other medical tests required.
- Post citations and injury and illness data where workers can access the information.
- “Notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace fatality or within 24 hours of any work-related inpatient hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye.”
- Not retaliate against workers for using their rights under the law.
What authority does OSHA have in New York State?
In most cases, this act has legal authority over private-sector employers and employees in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions via Federal or through an OSHA-approved state plan.
However, in New York State, an OSHA-approved plan covers public sector workers only. Private sector workers are covered by federal OSHA mandates.
New York’s plan, The New York Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH), includes many of the typical OSHA mandates as well as:
- Workplace Violence Prevention
- Emergency Escape and Self-Rescue Ropes and System Components for Firefighters
- Permissible Exposure Limits
PESH also has its own mandates surrounding the recording and reporting of occupational injuries and illnesses.
What rights do I have if my employer violates OSHA standards?
Even though your employer has certain obligations to you under OSHA mandates, it doesn’t mean they will follow through. Often, when an OSHA violation results in injury, the insurance company may try to invalidate your claim with the employer to lessen your compensation.
Knowing your employee rights under this act is key. And Brown Kwon & Lam can help. If you have been retaliated against for filing an OSHA or PESH violation against your employer, contact our attorneys today.