Like the versions that came before it, the latest OSHA Job Safety and Health: It's the Law poster informs employees about their rights and the employer's responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. What you may not know is that you are required to display this poster in your business in a place where your employees can easily see it (unless you already have a previous version of the poster proudly displayed – in which case, get down with your compliant self).
If you're new to the business world and OSHA compliance, let's touch on some helpful reminders the poster points out and other employer responsibilities you should be aware of.
Worker Rights & Employer Responsibilities: The Takeaways
As OSHA states, all workers have a right to:
- A safe workplace. It's up to you – the employer – to make sure your employees aren't subject to unnecessary hazards around the workplace (e.g., boxes stored precariously above head level). Read about Dollar Tree's mistakes so you don't make the same ones in "What Not to Do: Workers' Compensation Edition."
- Raise a safety or health concern. Your employees can report work injuries or illnesses with you or OSHA without being retaliated against. In other words, you can't fire an employee for making a complaint about workplace hazards or for reporting occupational injuries.
- Receive information and training on occupational hazards. Provide these materials and training to your employees on their first day of the job to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and accidents. For instance, if your employees must lift heavy boxes, you should create brochures that address possible safety issues with this task and outline steps to minimize the risk of injuries. Note: OSHA requires you to produce this material in a language and vocabulary your workers understand. For more tips, read "Workers' Comp Investigation Offers Small Businesses a Reminder to Communicate."
- Request that OSHA inspect the workplace. You must comply with all applicable OSHA standards, and if a worker feels you're not complying, they are entitled to ask OSHA officers to follow up. Again, you can't retaliate against employees who report unsafe or unhealthy conditions to OSHA. Workers are also entitled to see any OSHA citations issued to you, which you must post near the place of the alleged violation. (Related reading: "A Crash Course in Types of OSHA Violations.")
- File a complaint with OSHA over retaliation. Employees can report being retaliated against for using their rights within 30 days.
- Request copies of the workplace injury log. Workers can also request their medical records and tests that gauge workplace hazards. Be sure to keep this information on file to readily access it upon request. Also worth noting: covered employers are required to report all workplace fatalities within eight hours, and occupational hospitalizations, amputations, and eyesight loss within 24 hours to OSHA.
In almost every state and under most conditions, you are required to carry Workers' Compensation Insurance as soon as you hire employees. Though that may seem like one more hoop to jump through, it's actually a good thing for your business. Instead of paying out of pocket for employee medical expenses when they are hurt on the job, your Workers' Comp policy may cover the cost.
Plus, if you do your part to keep the workplace hazard-free and properly train employees, you can reduce occupational risks from the start. It's a win-win for everyone: your employees stay healthy and protected, you comply with OSHA standards, and your business reduces the chance of Workers' Comp claims, which keeps your premium manageable. For more on that, read "How Workplace Safety Can Save a Business Money" and our Workers' Comp Insurance Quote Analysis.