Preventing Workplace Injuries: What Are Employers Responsible For?
Injuries can happen in any workplace. While most of us consider workplaces such as factories and construction sites to be especially dangerous, the reality is that injuries and even fatalities occur in stores, restaurants, offices and other workplaces, too.
Employers are expected to provide safe workplaces for their employees. When employers fail to do this, and their negligence or recklessness leads to a workplace accident or injury, they can be held legally liable. If an accident occurs in the workplace, employers must take steps to prevent further injury or harm.
What About Employees?
Employees can do a great deal to make their jobs safer or more dangerous. Some may be careless on the job or ignore safety measures on purpose. What does the law say about that? In most cases, employers are still obligated to make the employee safe if an incident happened on company time or business property. This would be the case even if the employeeâ€™s own actions led to an accident.
The one important exception is alcohol. If an employee is injured because he or she drank on the job or before showing up for work, the employer might not be held liable.
What Is Covered?
Employers are responsible for workplace safety in the place of work and common areas. For example, if an office employee has his or her own office but also uses conference rooms and the cafeteria, the employer needs to make sure that all of these places are safe. Any company property must be safe. If a company offers a company car, for example, then employers need to make sure that they take steps to keep that car properly maintained and safe.
Employers also need to make sure that employees are safe on company time. If an employee needs to meet with a client across town, for example, the employer may be responsible if an accident happens, even though the client and employee are not in the office. When employees travel, are in training, or take breaks or lunches, they still need to be kept safe, and employers are still responsible for safety in these cases.
What Laws Are in Place to Protect Employees?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires all employers to provide a safe workplace that does not have dangerous hazards. The law also requires that employers are responsible for making sure that employees have safe conditions in the workplace.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has lots of rules that employers need to follow â€” especially in riskier workplaces. OSHA can inspect workplaces, issue citations if employers donâ€™t keep employees safe, and even pursue penalties and charges against workplaces that are not safe.
What Do Employers Need to Do?
According to OSHA, employers need to find and eliminate any hazards that are dangerous for employees. If for some reason they canâ€™t â€” for example, dangerous machines are part of the job in a factory â€” they must clearly post signs about the danger, ensure proper training for employees, and keep non-qualified personnel and visitors away from the hazardous area.
Employers also need to buy workersâ€™ compensation insurance so that if someone is injured on the job, the employee will get benefits to pay for medical care and lost wages.