• Mar
    Posted in:
    Posted by: Jarve Kaplan Granato Starr

    What does the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act of 1970 Mean for Workers?

    General Duty Clause

    When we apply to and accept a job, we do so with great hope and expectation. Work is an important part of our sense of who we are and our purpose in life. It is the vehicle by which we reach our goals. Unfortunately, not every workplace setting is all that we hope it will be. Sometimes the job is inherently dangerous, and sometimes the people with whom we work present us with challenges. Sometimes our employers do not take appropriate measures to ensure that our environment is free of hazards. The General Duty Clause of the OSH Act of 1970 is meant to address this. Its goal is to require employers to take all appropriate actions to prevent workplace accidents and make sure that the work environment that they provide is “free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.”

    The specific dangers that are addressed by OSHA include the following:

    • Toxic substances
    • Harmful physical agents
    • Electrical hazards
    • Fall hazards
    • Trenching hazards
    • Hazardous waste
    • Infectious diseases
    • Fire and explosion hazards
    • Dangerous atmospheres
    • Machine hazards
    • Confined spaces

    There is also an additional standard referred to as the “general duty clause.” But since employees’ workplace injuries are supposed to be covered by workers’ compensation, there is some confusion as to exactly how OSHA applies to injured workers.

    First, when an employee is injured or becomes ill on the job, employers are required to report it to OSHA.  This is in part to ensure that safety programs are being monitored. Employees have the right to ask OSHA to inspect a workplace to ensure that it is in compliance and to do so without fear of retaliation. When an injury is shown to have been a result of an OSHA violation, the injured worker may have the right to take their claim outside of the workers’ compensation system and convert it to a personal injury claim, which may yield a higher amount of compensation.

    Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance policy that American employers are required to provide for their employees. In exchange for providing medical compensation and lost wages, the employee loses their right to file a negligence lawsuit against their employer. But these employees often have additional rights when their injury is related to an OSHA violation. In these cases, the employee has the right to file both a workers’ compensation claim, and also has the right to file a third-party claim against their employer for their negligent role in their injury.  This type of suit can pursue compensation for pain and suffering, and in some cases may even seek punitive damages.

    To prove that an OSHA violation took place, you need the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Contact the law office of Jarve, Kaplan, Granato & Starr, LLC to learn more.


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