Fifty Years Later, OSHA Continues to Focus on Job Safety for Workers
The statistics regarding workplace injuries may seem staggering, but much is being done to protect workers' health and safety. By taking a proactive approach, employers can make a great deal of headway in protecting their workers. And, for the past 50 years the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) has led the way by defining and enforcing ways for employers to keep their workers safe on the job. As outlined in a recent publication from the AFL-CIO entitled "Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect," more than 627,000 workers have been saved since the OSHA went into effect.
That being said, there is plenty of room for improvement. Too many workers are still at risk of serious injury, illness or death due to hazardous workplace conditions. In fact, according to the AFL-CIO report, "workplace hazards kill and disable more than 100,000 workers each year—5,333 from traumatic injuries and an estimated 95,000 from occupational diseases."
The Pandemic and the Workplace
Add COVID-19 into the mix, and heightened workplace protections must be front and center in the minds of employers and workers. "A lot of headway has been made when it comes to tackling the pandemic, and reducing the risks of transmission, in and out of the workplace, but we must remain ever vigilant with it comes to workers' safety," says Alvaro Lizarraga, a Workers' Compensation partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK). "As restrictions are lifted and guidelines relaxed, California's workers who have been able to work remotely will be returning to the workplace, which places the onus on the employers to follow the mandated safety requirements even more closely in order to keep employees as safe as possible."
The California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) continues to update its standards for workplace compliance as well as its Frequently Asked Questions regarding workers' protections relating to the pandemic. Keep in mind that these are ever-changing guidelines that continue to impact the Southland.
Worker Protection Should Always Be Paramount
Keeping employees as safe as possible should always be a top priority for employers, not just during a pandemic. OSHA has gone to great lengths to educate employers about workplace hazards and has laid out requirements that must be adhered to in regards to reporting work-related injuries and illnesses.
"Employers who adhere to the OSHA guidelines and are dedicated to providing as hazard-free a workplace as possible are openly committing to the notion that workers' health and safety are paramount," says Lizarraga. "Such adherence will lead to a reduction in the number of illnesses and deaths related to work, even during a pandemic.
"It is vital for workers to understand their rights when it comes to OSHA and Cal/OSHA regulations," he continues. "And to remember that we at GEK are always here to answer questions and discuss any ways we can help those suffering from work-related injuries or illnesses."