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Occupational Health and Safety

Know your safety rights at work

Accidents can happen, but sometimes they can have life-altering or even fatal results. When you go to work, you shouldn't have to worry about your health and safety. However, safety is a real issue in every workplace, even one that may seem completely safe. While your employer and various agencies all have a role to play in ensuring your workplace safety, ultimately the ball is in your court. Make sure you're aware of all potential hazards and that you know what to do if you experience personal injury or become ill.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH)

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH) is a law found within the Department of Labor. The act strives to regulate workplace safety and health conditions, with the goal of making "safer and more healthful" work environments. Under this law, employees are encouraged to take an active role in ensuring health and safety in their work environment.

Examples of workers' rights under the OSH Act:

  • The employer must have "copies of appropriate standards, rules, regulations and requirements" at the workplace. Employees have the right to examine all of these documents.
  • Employees can ask their employers for information about workplace hazards. Employees have the right to know about precautions they can take, as well as the steps they should follow if they've been harmed at the workplace.
  • If employees think hazardous conditions exist at their job site, of if any other violations occur at work, they can ask for an Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) inspection.

The above list provides only a few examples found within the act. The act can be read online and provides a lot of information, such as the rules for workers who encounter hazardous materials. The act also attempts to ensure that employees can take part in safety and health processes. To meet that goal, the act prohibits employers from firing or discriminating against a worker who exercises their "rights under this act." You could also visit the website for The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety for more information.

Workplace Hazards

The following list provides just a few examples of the many risks that could exist in a workplace:

  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Electrocution
  • Poor ergonomics
  • Eye safety
  • Agricultural injuries
  • Mold
  • Asbestos
  • Indoor air quality
  • Excessive noise
  • Radiation
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Pesticide poisoning
  • Workplace chemicals
  • Psychological hazards, such as verbal abuse
  • Biological hazards, such as viruses

By being as educated as possible, you can help ensure you stay safe at work. Be sure to stay in contact with your employer and know your rights, as laid out by governmental and other agencies. And remember, if you're not feeling safe, you have the right to stop what you're doing. Accidents can happen very quickly and the possible outcome is not worth the risk – a healthy work environment is integral in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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