It is a normal Friday morning. The workplace is slowing down for the weekend, and most of management is off work for a long weekend. About 9:00 a.m. you are notified that a visitor has arrived in HR – you aren’t expecting a visitor – is it a vendor trying to sell you something? NO – it is an OSHA inspector?!?!?!?! What do you do if an OSHA inspector shows up to your workplace? This article will provide you with some tips to be prepared when this occurs.
The claimant worked as a heavy equipment operator for various employers over a thirty-three year period, during which he was routinely exposed to loud noises from the machines he operated and from equipment being used around him. The claimant worked for his last employer for a total of forty hours. After he was subsequently diagnosed with hearing loss directly attributable to industrial noise exposure, the claimant filed a hearing loss claim for worker’s compensation benefits.
According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”), nearly two million American workers report having been victims of workplace violence each year. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, homicide is the fifth-leading cause of workplace fatalities in the U.S., accounting for 8% of all fatal on-the-job injuries. In recent years, tragedies around the country have focused employers’ attention on workplace violence, especially those involving firearms.
On May 11, 2016, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (“OSHA”) issued the final version of amendments to its Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Rule. While the principal function of the new rule is to require certain employers to begin electronically filing injury and illness reports to OSHA in 2017 (records which will then be published to the public), employers should also take note that OSHA has quietly adopted new anti-retaliation provisions in its regulations that could lead to more investigations and citations.
I had the opportunity to hear Dr. David Michaels, Ph.D., the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, speak on March 10, 2016, about the state of Occupational Safety & Health in the United States. It was not just a “normal” speech, as it was his last in that position before the American Bar Association Labor & Employment Law Section Committee on Occupational Safety & Health. In attendance were lawyers devoted to representing employers like me, lawyers from unions, lawyers from the Solicitor’s Offices around the Country who represent OSHA, OSHA officials from Washington, D.C., Commissioners from the independent Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission (OSHRC), and the Chief Judge of OSHRC, and various Company and Industry representatives, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and various employee rights groups. Our assemblage is unique in that it contains all constituencies in the OSHA world.
Retaliation against an employee who has filed a complaint, testified, or exercised any right under OSHA is a violation of that Act. OSHA, however, has a small window of opportunity for an employee who believes he has been retaliated against by his employer to bring a claim before OSHA. To be timely, an employee must file his whistleblower complaint with OSHA within thirty days from the date of an adverse action.
In the past decade, it has become increasingly common to see employers devise new and innovative ways to reinforce the importance of safe workplaces to their employees. In an effort to achieve greater workplace safety, employers have frequently looked to implementing safety incentive programs (“SIPs”) to reward employees with cash, prizes, awards, or other recognition when the total number of injuries and near misses falls below the level specified by management. For example, an individual employee or department could be rewarded with anything from free t-shirts to a chance to win a new pickup truck in a company raffle if the injury tally falls below the threshold the employer establishes. Some employers have even used cash incentives or additional vacation time as rewards to encourage workers to be more safety conscious.
According to media reports, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is launching what it calls a “no-notice” campaign in West Virginia this summer. OSHA indicated that this campaign is designed to reduce construction injuries and deaths.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that more than two million American workers are victims of workplace violence each year. In fact, homicide currently ranks as the fourth-leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States. Recently, a psychiatric clinic associated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) unexpectedly, and unfortunately, became involved in these statistics.