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A Brief Guide to Employee Health and Safety Rights

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on November 26, 2020 at 9:02 AM

The rights afforded to employees under OSHA regulations are actually quite extensive, and many standards outline additional sets of rights implicitly or explicitly.

We could fill a library with all the myriad employee health and safety rights under federal law alone. Here, we’re going to cover three big hitters that relate to each other in important ways.

General Duty Clause

OSHA’s General Duty Clause, part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, is one of the most fundamental guarantees of employee health and safety rights, the foundation upon which all other rights rest.

It’s also one of the most basic guarantees since all other worker safety rights stem from it.

The guarantee offered by the General Duty Clause is simple. As stated in the Clause, in Section 5(a)(1), “Each employer — shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees…”

In other words, employers are responsible for providing a workplace reasonably free of serious recognized hazards, and it is an employee’s right to have access to such a work environment.

Right to Information

Similarly, OSHA guarantees workers and their representatives the right to see information employers collect about hazards in their workplace.

This means employees have more than the right to a safe workplace. They have the right to know what hazards they face in their work environment and they have the right to know what their employer does to protect them.

We can’t point to a single standard for this right because several standards highlight this right. They also independently highlight various methods that employers must use to notify their employees of present hazards.

One good example is the hazard communication standard, a.k.a. the “right to know” standard, which outlines labeling requirements for hazardous chemicals, safety data sheets, lists of hazardous chemicals used and stored in the workplace, and chemical safety training.

Right to File a Complaint

Last but not least, workers have the right to file a safety complaint with OSHA and request an on-site OSHA safety inspection.

This relates to both a worker’s right to a safe work environment and a worker’s right to know what hazards are in their workplace. If they find that employers are not providing an adequately safe workplace and they are not taking the appropriate safety precautions, employees have the right to speak up to OSHA to enforce their right to a safe workplace – without fear of reprisal.

Navigating Employee Health and Safety Rights

This is by no means a comprehensive review of employee health and safety rights, but it does communicate an essential point: employee health and safety rights are the building blocks of your safety responsibilities as an employer. When you think about safety compliance, employee rights are part of that.

That’s why we built our compliance software around what matters most: your employees. Because if you’re not focused on protecting employees first, then you’re not really doing safety.

Ready to take a better approach to safety? Get in touch to learn more about how our software can strengthen your workplace from the inside out.

Topics: OSHA, Regulatory Information, Workplace Health and Safety, Compliance, Safety Management

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