The United States Department of Labor – Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued certain, non-negotiable rules about workplace protections for employees. Some of these are discussed below.
The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is essential to a safe and injury free work environment. Whether you are working in a lab or on a construction site, there is a certain amount of personal protective equipment that your employer should provide you as an employee. The nature and extent of your personal protective equipment will naturally vary depending on your particular facts and circumstances, but there are some universal personal protective measures that employers are expected to take.
Eye and Face Protection
Regardless of whether you are on a construction site or working in a lab, if you are performing work in a situation where foreign objects could get into your eye, you should be provided safety glasses or a face shield. Examples of working conditions where eye protection should be provided include things like welding, grinding, cutting, nailing, working with harmful chemicals, concrete, or any other situation where there are flying particles in your environment. Electrical hazards can also create a need for eye or face protectors. Which type of protection, whether eye protection or face protection should be based on the particular hazards that are anticipated.
There are many situations where gloves should be used to fit the job. For example, food service workers should use gloves. However, these types of gloves, while sufficient for handling food, are not sufficient for collecting crime scene evidence or in a laboratory handling corrosive chemicals. The heavy duty gloves required for concrete work will not easily substitute for the gloves required for welding. In addition to gloves, sleeves may be an appropriate form of personal protective equipment, especially when one is exposed to potential electrical hazards. You are entitled to gloves that fit your hands. Employers are not allowed to purchase gloves in only one size, and expect their employees to “manage.”
Foot protection is essential, whether one is working in an industrial kitchen or a construction site. The foot protection required is dependent on the work conditions. Both restaurant workers and construction workers should wear slip resistant shoes. However, construction workers should also have shoes with puncture resistant soles. It is unlikely that the restaurant worker would also require the puncture resistant feature. In work environments where people work around heavy equipment, or face the very real challenge of falling objects, safety toe footwear is essential.
Head protection is critical in a variety of employment situations. First and foremost, head protection should be provided when there is the potential for accidental head contact with electrical hazards. Additionally, there are many situations where workers may be subject to bumps on their heads from either fixed or moving objects. Finally, in any work environment where there is the potential for objects to fall from above, head protection must be provided.
The care and maintenance of head protection cannot be understated. Hard hats must be routinely inspected, looking for evidence of deterioration, dents, or cracks in the surface. If a worker wearing a hard hat is subject to an electrical shock, or a heavy blow from an object, the hard hat must be replaced. Employers have an obligation to maintain hard hats in good condition. Workers should not ever be expected to work with substandard personal protective equipment.
Floor and Wall Openings
Floor and wall openings can provide any number of potential sources of injuries. Where there is a floor opening of a foot or more, it must be guarded by a cover. Alternatively, a guard rail can be employed to protect workers. Employers are also allowed to employ a similar alternative, provided it protects people from the hazard from all sides. The exception to this is when the floor opening is an entrance to a stairway. When there is a permanent floor opening, and persons may be passing below the floor opening, toe boards must be installed around all of the edges.
Elevated surfaces are also required to have toe boards (four inches high) if the elevated surface is in such an area that people or machinery could be subject to exposure to falling objects from above. Signs should be posted that detail the elevated surface’s load capacity, where appropriate. If the elevated surface is more than four feet above the ground or floor, standard guardrails should be erected. Where an elevated surface is used to stack materials, the materials should be stacked or piled in a way the limits the possibility the materials will collapse, roll, tip, or fall. Finally, the elevated surface should have a means of entry and exit that has handrails to access the area.
Each workplace should maintain a written hazard communication program. This program, at a minimum, should document employee training, Safety Data Sheets (SDS), and labeling practices. Containers of substances that are hazardous need to be labeled both with the specific physical and health hazards associated with the specific chemicals and the identity of the product. Each hazardous substance should have a Safety Data Sheet that is available for review. A comprehensive list of the hazardous substances used on the workplace should also be maintained and available for review. Finally, there should be an employee training program in place regarding all hazardous substances used in the workplace.
What to Do If You Have Been Injured In the Workplace
Workplace injuries are no laughing matter. If you have been injured in the workplace, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, as well as your expenses during this difficult time. Please contact the offices of Bader Law Firm, LLC if you have been injured at work. There is no charge for a meeting with our experienced workplace injury attorneys in Atlanta. We would be delighted to discuss your case with you and review the specific facts and circumstances of your case to determine whether you may have a cause of action. Call us today!