Chances are, if you hold an office job or a similar occupation, you don’t worry about your safety when you go to work each and every day. After all, you might think there isn’t much that can happen to you while you’re sitting at a desk, typing away. In some ways, you’re right! Most likely, you’re perfectly safe on the job. However, the reason you’re right is probably because your employer has taken the legally required steps to create a safe, healthy working environment for you and your colleagues.
Indeed, laws (and even entire governmental divisions) exist solely to protect the employee in their place of work. Though these laws and regulations are more commonly talked about in the context of the construction industry and other similarly physically risky jobs, they do extend to govern most workspaces and occupations. An employer found to be in violation of these laws is subject to the appropriately severe repercussions—especially if there’s a wrongful death lawyer involved in the case.
Have you ever felt unsafe on the job? Think you might have a case against an employer due to the death of a coworker or loved one? In some cases, it might not be simple. JD Haas, a group of Minneapolis wrongful death lawyers, scratches the surface of wrongful death law when it comes to the workspace below.
Understanding OSHA: The Basics
If you feel you might have a wrongful death case on your hands, and that the case relates to the workplace, chances that you’ll be dealing with OSHA regulations. OSHA is a division of the United States Department of Labor. The term OSHA itself stands for Occupational Safety and Health Administration. In plainer terms, OSHA essentially is the division of the U.S. government that ensures employees are safe on the job. Created in 1970, OSHA goes above and beyond simply setting workplace regulations. According to its official website, it provides training, outreach, and help to employees and employers alike to promote safe working conditions.
OSHA sets countless regulations for individual industries, and the law is very thorough. Everything from fire exits to hazard communication to construction scaffolding is addressed in OSHA law. These laws can seem nuanced, complicated, and confusing at times, so it’s for these reasons that, if you feel an employer has been negligent in promoting safe working conditions, it’s best to hire a competent wrongful death attorney to help you investigate the specifics.
However, there is one catch-all clause of OSHA law that’s very important for anyone in any industry to understand: the General Duty Clause.
● The General Duty Clause has been around since the original OSH act. It’s among one of the oldest OSHA regulations out there, as it’s been around since the act that created OSHA itself!
● It’s a very short clause. Yes, only a sentence or two. However, the rest of OSHA law is so thorough that it doesn’t need to say anything more than it does.
● Though short, it’s very broad. Though interpretations of the law can vary, depending on the situation, essentially this clause of the 1970 OSH Act obligates employers to give their workers a space that is free of recognized hazards that are likely to cause injury or death.
● Employees also have obligations under this clause. It dictates that they also must obey any applicable sections of the 1970 OSH act, just as their employer must.
● It can be somewhat difficult to find an employer guilty under the General Duty Clause. This is not due to ineffectiveness of the law or anything of the sort! According to OSHA’s official website, the General Duty Clause is only called into question if there exists no other OSHA regulation that governs the specific unsafe situation any given employee finds themselves in. Essentially, this means that your wrongful death attorney might look at the rest of OSHA law before seeking to take the case from this angle. This is yet another reason to seek the services of a reputable injury attorney, as navigating all of these laws on your own is a monumentally difficult task, especially if you are not trained in the intricacies of the legal system.
● Finding an employer guilty of violation of this section of the OSH act requires a few things. Again, the law is subject to individual interpretations. However, as per a 2003 interpretation letter on OSHA’s official website, to be found guilty of violations of this clause requires a few things: that the employee or employees were exposed to a hazard, that the hazard was “recognized,” that the hazard was likely to cause physical injury or death, and that there was a reasonable method available to correct that hazard.
Still confused? That’s all right! There’s a reason that wrongful dealth lawyers and personal injury lawyers go to school for years to learn how to interpret the law. If you think you might have a legitimate wrongful death case against an employer, it’s always best to contact a reputable professional to assess the situation.
We here at JD Haas are here to help you. Our compassionate and experienced team of attorneys seek to bring justice where it is due. Give our Minneapolis office a call today at 952-345-1025.