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Employees' Rights Under OSHA

Filed under Workplace Safety. Fact checked on May 24, 2012.

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Employees have the right to file complaints against employers with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as well as asserting other rights without fear of reprisal from employers. Employers are required to display posters that inform employees of their OSHA rights.

The main purpose of OSHA is to ensure a safe workplace for employees. To that end, the Occupational Safety and Health Act grants employees numerous rights and expects employers to respect these rights. Employees' rights include:

  • initiating OSHA inspections by filing a complaint against you
  • consulting with OSHA representatives during inspections
  • having an employee representative accompany an inspector
  • instituting action in court in the event of imminent danger and OSHA's failure to act
  • accessing environmental sampling data and toxic substances monitoring
  • requesting and receiving notice of citations and penalties
  • requesting and receiving notice of all contested actions and proceedings
  • requesting and receiving notice of all variances and abatement periods
  • accessing injury and illness Form 300A
  • requesting that the employee's personal physician have access to medical records on the employee created by a company physician or other health care professionals on behalf of the employer
  • refusing to work in dangerous conditions
  • having their rights posted in the workplace

OSHA requires you to display posters that inform employees of their job safety rights. Copies of this poster (OSHA 3165) are available at the OSHA web site.

Employees cannot be discharged or discriminated against for exercising any right created by the Act or for filing complaints or instituting proceedings under or related to the Act.

OSHA also administers the whistle-blowing provisions of several other statutes which protect employees who report violations of various transportation, environmental and securities laws.

Tip

Because the number one reason that OSHA inspects businesses is employees' complaints, be sure to comply with OSHA recordkeeping requirements.

The OSH Act does not create a private right of action that would allow employees to sue you for injuries caused by your violation of the Act or OSHA standards. On the other hand, the OSH Act does not affect state workers' compensation laws, nor does it preclude a suit by an employee based on any rights created by state statutes or common law. Evidence of OSHA violations may be admissible as evidence in such a suit.

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