When an American clocks in for a day of work, he or she does so with a reasonable expectation of safety. Knowing that the office building we spend up to twelve hours a day within isn’t lined with toxic lead paint or covered in cancerous asbestos can go a long way in improving productivity, to say the least.
A large bearer of responsibility for safety in the workplace is the employer, who is charged with ensuring the building, equipment and hired staff are safe. The employer is not the only liable party, however. If a coworker shows up to the steel mill still intoxicated from a night of drinking and causes an accident, he may be found directly responsible for his actions (though depending on the circumstances, the company could also face some liability). Beyond both employer and employee, however, there is an organization that’s sole objective is to be the guardians of American workers. That group is the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and it may soon be facing orders to decrease enforcement.
Potential Decreased Enforcement Power for OSHA
With any deregulation to include a complete halt on news releases documenting enforcement fines would result in less accountability when it comes to workplace safety. This is significant because these releases often shamed safety violators and, thus, increased the stakes of allowing such violations to happen in the first place. Without this public scrutiny, businesses may face wrist slapping by OSHA in the safety of anonymity.
According to one article, an OSHA spokeswoman has claimed that their efforts have not been altered, yet many still fear a coming wave of deregulation–a serious risk when OSHA enforces such key workplace responsibilities as:
- Maintaining safe working standards recognized under the OSH Act and OSHA standards
- Posting warning signs of potential workplace hazards
- Ensure tools and equipment are maintained and safe to use
- Providing adequate training
- Openly posting the OSHA poster, which informs employees of their rights
- Keeping record of all workplace injuries
- Never discriminating against “whistleblowers” acting within their rights
- A number of other vitally important employee rights, found here
The Impact of OSHA Deregulation on Personal Injury Lawsuits
Though we are practiced litigators, taking a case to court is never a decision we suggest you take lightly. However, without OSHA there to hold employers responsible for upholding safety standards, many believe deregulation will lead to an increase in personal injury lawsuits. After all, if standards lower, lawyers will be the last line of defense against negligent employers.
Note that major changes to OSHA’s regulations would most likely take years to go into effect, so there is no immediate risk of major changes rolling through quite yet. That being said, this is a story that we’ll be sure to keep an eye on, as should you and every employed American. “Safety first” should not just be a mantra for our personal lives, but our professional as well.
If you are injured in the workplace, make sure to do your due diligence by immediately reporting the injury to your employer, seeking professional medical help and ensuring that your employer notifies their insurance company. If you have any reason to believe they have not, please contact Florida’s Division of Workers’ Compensation immediately. Additionally, if you feel that your injury should have been prevented, do not hesitate to call our workers’ compensation attorneys immediately. Our team is no stranger to defending clients in their personal injury lawsuits and is ready to fight for you.