Failure To Follow OSHA Guidance
Workplace safety standards are set by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), but employers often disregard them. When there is a failure to follow OSHA guidance, employees may be hurt on the job. If you were injured at work because your employer failed to follow OSHA guidance, you might consider contacting a personal injury lawyer with The Mark Casto Law Firm at (706) 940-4030.
What Is OSHA?
OSHA is the regulatory agency that sets forth safety standards for American workplaces. The acronym also refers to the broad law that regulates these standards, the Occupational Safety & Health Act. The agency has a mission to ensure that American workers have safe and healthy places to work. It does this by establishing and enforcing certain standards and by delivering training, education, and outreach. OSHA may inspect a workplace at random or following a work-related injury or death.
Employer Responsibilities Under OSHA
Under the Occupational Safety & Health Act, employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards. Standards are regulatory requirements the agency has published. They serve as criteria for determining whether an employer is in compliance with the OSHA law. These standards are published in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations and are divided into separate sections for general industry, construction, agriculture, and maritime. Employers must comply with mandatory safety and health standards set out by OSHA or an OSHA-approved state plan.
Additionally, employers must comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSHA law. The General Duty Clause requires employers to provide a safe place for employees to work that does not have recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious injury or death.
Types of OSHA Violations
OSHA establishes various guidelines related to workplace safety, including standards related to toxic substances, fall hazards, electrical hazards, hazardous waste, machine hazards, fire and explosion hazards, and infectious diseases.
The most commonly cited OSHA standards are:
- Fall protection, construction
- Hazard communication standard, general industry
- Respiratory protection, general industry
- Scaffolding, general requirements, construction
- Ladders, construction
- Control of hazardous energy, general industry
- Powered industrial trucks, general industry
- Fall protection, training requirements
- Eye and face protection
- Machinery and machine guarding, general requirements
Severity of OSHA Violations
If OSHA issues a citation based on a violation, it will be labeled by severity in order from least serious to most serious:
- De minimus—These are minimal technical violations that do not impact health or safety, such as having a ladder with rungs every 13 inches instead of the required 12 inches.
- Other-than-serious—These violations do not impose an immediate threat but could result in an employee injury, such as not properly storing materials.
- Serious—Serious violations do impact safety and impose a significant risk of injury or death, such as failing to require employees to wear hard hats.
- Willful—A willful violation is the most serious type of violation and is imposed when an employer shows an intentional or careless disregard for safety, such as using scaffolding that has previously been found to be faulty.
Penalties for OSHA Violations
The potential penalty for an OSHA violation depends on the severity of the violation, whether there is a history of violations, whether the employer corrected the violation, and the OSHA regulator's discretion. Possible penalties include the following:
- De minimus—No monetary penalty
- Other-than-serious—Fines from $0 to $12,500 per violation
- Serious—Fines up to $12,500 per violation, depending on the company's size, history of previous violations, and level of cooperation
- Willful—Employers who make willful violations can be charged up to $125,000. If the violation resulted in an employee's death, the matter can be referred for criminal prosecution. Additionally, the company can face fines of a minimum of $250,000, or $500,000 for T corporations
- Repeated violations—If the company has previously been cited for the same violation within the last three years, the standard penalty is $125,000.
- Failure to abate—If the company does not fix whatever caused the citation, it can face an additional penalty of $7,000 per day after the due date.
Legal Claims for Employer Violations
If an employer fails to follow OSHA guidance and a worker is injured as a direct result of this failure, the injured worker may be able to pursue a claim against the negligent employer. These claims usually fall within one of two categories—workers' compensation or third-party claims.
Workers' compensation is a no-fault insurance system that provides for the payment of medical expenses and partial payment for lost wages that result from an accident on the job. All businesses in Georgia with three or more employees are required to maintain workers' compensation insurance.
Injured workers can recover compensation without having to prove that their employer was negligent. However, they forfeit their right to sue the employer for the full extent of their damages, such as pain and suffering.
In some situations, the party who is responsible for injuries is not the employer, and the injured worker may be able to sue the third party who caused the injury. Some examples of when a third-party claim may be available include:
- A driver hit someone while he or she was working
- A product manufacturer produced a defective product that caused the injury
- A manufacturer was negligent with toxic substances that led to exposure in the workplace
- A property owner's negligence resulted in a worker falling at the property
How a Lawyer Can Help Following a Work Injury
The knowledgeable workplace injury lawyers at The Mark Casto Law Firm can help with your claim in some or all of the following ways:
- Thoroughly investigating the incident and identifying all potential legal claims
- Handling communications with the insurance company and other parties
- Gathering evidence of fault or responsibility under workers' compensation regulations
- Reviewing OSHA guidelines and violations
- Negotiating for a fair settlement
Contact a Workers' Compensation Lawyer Following a Workplace Accident
If you were injured in a workplace accident because of your employer's failure to follow OSHA guidance, consider contacting an experienced workers' compensation lawyer from The Mark Casto Law Firm at (706) 940-4030 to learn more about your legal rights and options during a free, no-obligation consultation.