Concerned about workplace safety or injuries? An attorney can help

Workers should know their rights in the event of a workplace accident and feel comfortable in reporting workplace hazards. Read on to learn more.

Although the federal government may not ordinarily monitor the daily operations of a state agency, workplace safety and health programs can be different. Specifically, Section 18 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 authorizes states to form agencies devoted to enforcing federal workplace safety standards. In fact, this approach is incentivized: If OSHA approves a state agency’s plan, the state agency may be reimbursed for up to half of that plan’s operating costs. Of course, such state plans will be subject to monitoring by federal OSHA officials.

New York workplace safety: a matter of federal and state law

Less than half of American states have an OSHA-approved plan -- one that covers both private sector and government employees. In New York, the OSHA-approved plan applied only to public sector employees. Called the New York State Plan for Public Employee Safety and Health, it is overseen by the New York Department of Labor. Federal OSHA officials retain jurisdiction over the state’s private sector workplaces.

Readers might question whether a state with an OSHA-approved plan indicates a responsible approach toward work-related injuries and disability. Unfortunately, far too many workers are denied their workers' compensation claims on their first application, and even those that are successful might be under terms that are inadequate to cover medical bills and lost wages.

Is there inadequate oversight for workplace safety?

Of course, an employer may also be lax in implementing OSHA-mandated workplace safety regulations. Yet without proper administrative enforcement and oversight, employers might not be held accountable. According to a recent article, the ratio of OSHA field inspectors to workers may inadequate in many states, ranging between one official for every 20,000 to 30,000 workers -- or more.

If you have concerns about workplace safety but are afraid of retaliation, a workers’ compensation attorney might be a good place to start. Similarly, an attorney can also help a worker who was injured on-the-job, regardless of fault behind the accident. An attorney who focuses on protecting the rights of injured workers may have a network of certified workers' compensation specialists to investigate every aspect of a safety complaint or workers’ compensation claim.

What to do in the event of an injury

In the event of an injury, it is important that you take proper procedural steps in obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. The starting point is seeking medical care immediate after the on-the-job injury. The doctor’s initial report from that visit may become a basis for determining your benefits and recuperation time. An individual’s employer should be notified, and a claim for workers’ compensation benefits should be filed before any applicable deadlines. If a claim is denied or grants inadequate benefits, an appeal process may be available before the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. A workers’ compensation attorney can help a worker prepare a realistic estimate of his or her rehabilitation time, list all of the treatments that may be required, prepare an estimated total lost wages, and generally attend to any issues that may arise in a workers’ compensation claim.

Keywords: workplace accident, workplace injury, on-the-job injury, OSHA, workplace safety, safety hazard, workers' compensation attorney, Workers' Compensation Board