The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), is a government agency dedicated to developing workplace health and safety standards in the United States. It further sets forth employee rights that employers must adhere to in order to protect their workers from injury and exploitation. OSHA’s safety regulations address the safety needs of a variety of industries, including, but not limited to, the construction, maritime, and agricultural industries. Many employers actually require their supervisors and employees to take OSHA classes related to these regulations, but this does not guarantee safety in the workplace. If you or a loved one suffered a workplace injury, there is a strong possibility that it was due to a violation of OSHA regulations.
OSHA Rights and Safety Standards
In order to improve workplace safety, workers are generally afforded the following rights under federal law:
- Training in a language you understand;
- Safe, working machinery;
- Safety gear;
- Protection from toxic chemicals;
- An OSHA inspection;
- Copies of workplace injury and illness logs; and
- Copies of workplace hazard test results.
Further, the regulations provide that work equipment must be reliably made and in good, working condition, unsafe controls, such as an electric grid, must the “tagged and locked,” and only employees who are trained or have experience can operate equipment and machinery. For example, if an electrical contractor is installing light fixtures and is shocked because the power box was not secured and inadvertently turned on, you may have a claim for a violation of OSHA regulations both for failing to tag and lock the electric box. Many workplace injuries are caused because employers cut corners to save money, such as refusing to fix or replace defective equipment.
There is also such a need for workers in dangerous and physically demanding industries such as construction that many employees may not be properly trained in OSHA safety standards. If you’ve been injured by defective work equipment due to poor employee training and an unsafe work environment, you may have a claim against the general contractor, property owner, or even your fellow co-worker for damages. Further, you may be able to recover under a theory of strict liability due to the violations.
Florida Workplace Injury Law
Unlike a traditional premises accident, if you are injured on the job, you will generally have to avail yourself of Florida Workers’ Compensation laws. This means that you may not sue your employer for your injuries, even if your employer was negligent in causing them. This does not mean that you cannot sue another negligent party though. If you are a subcontractor and the general contractor was the one legally responsible for maintaining the work site, you may have a cause of action against the general contractor. You may also have a cause of action against the property owner or another subcontractor under OSHA if there is evidence of a violation. After a debilitating workplace injury, however, you will likely need immediate compensation, and litigation takes time. For this reason, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which generally covers an injured employee’s medical expenses and lost wages incurred as a result of an injury as long as at least 50% of the injury was suffered on the job.
For example, if you fell in your home and injured your ankle and then due to that injury you tripped at work and exacerbated the injury slightly, you are likely not eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. This is also likely not an OSHA violation unless the premises was in a dangerous condition. You also may not receive workers’ compensation benefits under the following circumstances:
- The injury was intentionally self-inflicted;
- The injury was caused because the employee was on drugs or intoxicated;
- The injury was intentionally inflicted to obtain workers compensation benefits; or
- The employee refused to observe safety rules or use safety equipment.
Further, if you fall into these categories, it does not mean you can then use your employer for negligence. If the injury was purposefully self-inflicted or occurred because the employee was intoxicated, there is generally no case against another party because of the worker’s own negligence. It is also unlikely you would be successful in suing your employer if you refused to obey safety rules under the doctrine of assumption of risk. However, if you were injured by an untrained employee who was intoxicated on the job, this may be have been an OSHA violation.
Exceptions to Workers’ Compensation Law
One of the main exceptions to Florida’s workers’ compensation law is if your employer violated OSCH by refusing to provide you with necessary safety equipment and you are injured as a result. In this case, you would be permitted to sue your employer in Florida court for your injuries, as an employer’s knowing failure to provide safety equipment would likely result in serious injuries to his employees. There are two additional exceptions to Florida workers’ compensation law that would allow you to sue your employer. The first is simple; you weren’t injured while “on the job.” Worker’s Compensation insurance only covers injuries that occur during the scope of your employment. Second, you may sue your employer for injuries if he or she did not carry workers’ compensation insurance. This is illegal in Florida, and an employer may not defend a suit for personal injuries or wrongful death brought against him using worker’s compensation law if he did not carry the necessary coverage.
Contact a Clearwater Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Attorney
Worker’s Compensation insurance has both benefits and shortcomings, but if you believe your employer violated OSHA standards by not providing you with necessary safety equipment, you may be able to take him or another party to court. If you suffered a disabling injury at work, whether temporary or permanent, contact the Dolman Law Group immediately. The Dolman Law Group’s trained personal injury and workers’ compensation attorneys can analyze the facts of your case in order to determine whether you will be able to litigate your claims or must avail yourself to worker’s compensation insurance. Further, they can work with your employer’s insurance carrier to ensure you are receiving the full value of your claim. They are your premier personal injury lawyers in the greater Tampa Bay area. Call them today at 727-451-6900 or contact them online for a free, no-risk consultation.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, Florida 33765