OSHA and Construction Workers' Right to a Safe Workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the Department of Labor to reduce workplace hazards and implement safety and health programs. OSHA safety standards and regulations apply to work at construction projects, so it’s helpful to have a general idea of your rights under OSHA as an employee at a construction site. For more information on OSHA, see FindLaw's OSHA FAQs.
Employee Rights Under OSHA
OSHA gives employees many rights and responsibilities, including the right to:
- Review copies of appropriate standards, rules, regulations, and requirements that the employer should have available at the workplace.
- Have access to relevant employee exposure and medical records.
- Request the OSHA area director to inspect their workplace if they believe there are hazardous conditions or violations of standards and have an authorized employee representative accompany the OSHA compliance officer during the inspection tour.
- Receive a copy of tests done to find hazards in the workplace.
- Have their names withheld from their employer, upon request to OSHA, if they sign and file a written complaint.
- Be free of any discriminatory or retaliatory action taken by their employer as a result of any OSHA complaint.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
Employer Obligations Under OSHA
Among the obligations imposed under OSHA, employers have a duty to:
- Provide a workplace free from recognized hazards.
- Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment.
- Inform employees of OSHA safety and health standards that apply to their workplace.
- Display in a prominent place the official OSHA poster that describes rights and responsibilities under the OSH Act.
- Establish a written, comprehensive hazard communication program that includes provisions for such things as container labeling, material safety data sheets, and an employee training program.
- Provide employees safety training in a language that workers can understand.
- Inform employees of the existence, location, and availability of their medical and exposure records when employees first begin employment and at least annually thereafter, and to provide these records upon request.
If a hazard is not corrected, employees should contact an OSHA area office or state office via a written complaint. If the OSHA or state safety office determines that there are reasonable grounds for believing that a violation or danger exists, the office will conduct an inspection. A workers' representative has a right to accompany an OSHA compliance officer during the inspection. The representative must be chosen by the union, if there is one, or by the employees. Under no circumstances may the employer choose the workers' representative. The inspector may conduct a comprehensive inspection of the entire workplace or a partial inspection limited to certain areas or aspects of the operation.
At the end of the inspection, the OSHA inspector will meet with the employer and the employee representatives to discuss the abatement of any hazards that may have been found.
Getting Help For a Construction Accident Injury
If you have been injured as a result of an accident at a construction site, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself and your legal rights:
- Get medical attention for your injuries.
- Report the injury to your employer and/or construction site manager, and note the name and position of the person notified.
- Get the names and contact information of anyone who may have witnessed the accident.
- If possible, try to preserve any evidence related to your injury, by taking photographs of the area where you were injured (and the injuries themselves), or keeping the equipment or tool that was involved in your injury.
Get an Attorney to Review Your Case
Discussing your case with an experienced contruction injury attorney is your next step, and the best way to evaluate your potential claim. In light of complex liability issues, the legal deadlines for filing causes of action for injury (especially for injuries suffered at city-owned construction sites), and the need to conduct a thorough site investigation as soon after the injury as possible, it is wise to meet with an attorney sooner rather than later. You can even have the facts of your claim get an initial review by a qualified attorney.
Contact a qualified workers' compensation attorney to make sure your rights are protected.