OSHA and Railroad Workplace Safety
One of the easiest ways to prove that a railroad company/employer is liable for your injuries under FELA is to establish that some federal workplace safety regulation was violated in connection with your injuries. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety standards and regulations apply to work done by railroad employees, so it is helpful to have a general idea of your rights under OSHA as a railroad employee.
Remember that where railroad employment is concerned, OSHA standards are not the only federal guidelines that can govern workplace safety. Other such standards that might come into play in a FELA claim include the Boiler Inspection Act and the Safety Appliance Act. Your attorney will assess the applicability of any and all work environment safety regulations in your case, in making a determination as to who is responsible for your injuries.
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
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) within the Department of Labor, in order to reduce workplace hazards and implement safety and health programs. 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 conduct an inspection if they believe hazardous conditions or violations of standards exist in the workplace, and have an authorized employee representative accompany the OSHA compliance officer during the inspection tour.
- 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.
Employer Obligations Under OSHA
Among the obligations imposed under OSHA, employers have a duty to:
- Provide work and a workplace free from recognized hazards.
- 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.
- 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 being corrected, an employee should contact an OSHA area office or state office via a written complaint. If the OSHA or state 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.
Get Your Case Evaluated by an Attorney
If you've been injured in a workplace accident, your first move should be to consult with an experienced attorney, who can help ensure that your rights are protected. It’s especially important that you meet with an attorney before any type of hearing regarding safety and liability issues arising from the incident, as these proceedings can seriously affect your case. A great first step is to have an attorney do an evaluation of your case.
Contact a qualified workers' compensation attorney to make sure your rights are protected.