What laws govern workplace safety and injury prevention?

Readers may have questions about the interplay between safety rules set by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and workers’ compensation policies.

For starters, the jurisdiction of each is distinct. OSHA is a federal agency with Congressional authority to establish and enforce workplace safety regulations. It also provides educational resources, both through its website and onsite inspections and seminars.

State law and private insurance policies govern workers’ compensation policies in Alabama. The Alabama Department of Labor, through its Workers’ Compensation Division, provides administrative oversight. In addition to ensuring proper payment of benefits under an employer’s compensation policy, it administers rules for both self-insurers and group self-insurers. Notably, workers’ compensation benefits may address lost wages and medical costs, but generally exclude pain and suffering from any benefit calculations.

However, third party claims may sometimes be available in workplace accidents. In such event, an injured worker could sue under a negligence theory and include pain and suffering in his or her request for financial recovery. Some examples of third party liability may include claims against manufacturers of defective equipment, property owners that failed to remedy a property hazard, or non-employees or workers from another company whose actions contributed to the incident.

Taken together, OSHA safety rules and workers’ compensation insurance provide rights to a worker. The bottom line is that every worker is entitled to a safe workplace. Insurance is necessary because of the reality that unforeseeable, on-the-job accidents may occasionally happen. However, if an employer fails to provide a workplace free of identifiable safety hazards or risks, an employee should consult with a law firm that focuses on personal injury law and workplace accidents to understand his or her options.

Source:  OSHA, “Worker Right and Protections,” copyright 2016, United States Department of Labor

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