What Pennsylvania Workers Need to Know About Workplace Safety

scene of a work accident

The welfare of workers is fundamental to the success and productivity of any business. In Pennsylvania, as in the rest of the country, there are legal requirements that govern workplace safety. No employee should fear going to work because it is unsafe. No worker should be punished for reporting an unsafe work environment or attempting to recover fair benefits after a work injury. Understanding and asserting your rights can make a significant difference in ensuring a safe and healthy work environment.

In this blog, we have compiled basic information on legal requirements for workplace safety in Pennsylvania and how you can assert your rights when confronted with an unsafe work environment.

How OSHA Promotes Health & Safety in the Workplace

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor that was established under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 by Congress to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for employees by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.

OSHA plays a crucial role in workplace safety in Pennsylvania and across the United States. It's responsible for enforcing standards that cover a wide range of potential hazards in the workplace, from ensuring that machinery and equipment are safe to use, to enforcing standards for chemical use and ventilation, to mandating that employers provide necessary personal protective equipment.

OSHA also maintains a reporting system for workers who believe that their employers are not providing a safe or healthy workplace. They conduct inspections based on these reports, and in response to injuries, illnesses, and deaths that occur in the workplace. If a workplace does not meet OSHA standards, the agency can issue fines and mandate that the issues be corrected.

In addition to its enforcement activities, OSHA also conducts education and outreach activities designed to help employers understand their responsibilities and to help workers understand their rights and the hazards they may face in the workplace.

There are six OSHA Area Offices in Pennsylvania; these are responsible for enforcing standards across the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania has adopted federal OSHA standards and also provides additional regulations through the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry. These additional regulations can cover state-specific industries or situations not addressed by federal regulations.

You have several basic rights related to workplace safety and health. These include:

  • Right to a Safe Workplace: This is the main provision of the OSHA law. Employers must provide a workplace free of known health and safety hazards. This is true even in industries that are considered inherently dangerous, such as construction, mining, or trucking.
  • Right to Information: Employees have the right to information about their exposures to hazardous substances and harmful physical agents, and to have access to their own workplace medical records. Employers must also display a poster providing information about workers' rights and responsibilities.
  • Training: Employees have a right to be trained about potential workplace hazards in a language they can understand, and employers must provide this training. They also have the right to get safety training relevant to their field and role.
  • Right to Report a Problem: Employees have the right to report safety and health concerns or violations to OSHA without fear of retaliation. This includes the right to request an OSHA inspection if they believe there are unsafe or unhealthy conditions in the workplace.
  • Protection from Retaliation: Employees have the right to be free from retaliation for exercising their safety and health rights. This includes the right to speak up about hazards without fear of being demoted, fired, or otherwise penalized.
  • Right to Review Records: Employees have the right to see a log of work-related injuries and illnesses that occur in their workplace.

How to Address Workplace Safety Concerns in Pennsylvania

If you believe that your workplace is not adhering to safety standards, you can take action by:

  • Communicating with Management: The first step is to communicate your concerns with your supervisor or employer. Express the issues you have identified and inquire about what measures can be taken to rectify them.
  • Documenting the Safety Concerns: Keep a record of the safety issues you have identified, as well as any communication you have had with your employer regarding these issues. This documentation can be crucial if you need to escalate your concerns to an outside authority.
  • File a Complaint with OSHA: If your employer does not address the safety issues satisfactorily, you can file a complaint with OSHA. You can do this anonymously if you are concerned about retaliation.
  • Seek Legal Counsel: In cases where there are serious safety violations, if you have been subjected to retaliation for raising safety concerns, or if you have been injured, it might be wise to seek legal advice. A lawyer with experience in handling work injury cases can help you understand your rights and options.

Remember, a safe workplace is a collective responsibility and a fundamental right.

Ask a Pennsylvania Work Injury Attorney

If you have been injured because of an unsafe work environment, Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC is here to listen to your story and offer our insight. Our firm has been fighting for Pennsylvanians for over 100 years—we know the intricacies of the workers’ compensation process and how to seek the fair (and complete) benefits to which our clients are entitled. For a free, confidential review of your case, call (888) 498-3023 or contact us online. We’re here to help.

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