Workplace safety is a very real issue in today's economy. Most employers make every effort to comply with the laws and regulations regarding safety standards to their benefit and the benefit of their employees. Even so, some employers and subcontractors in California and nationwide have been caught cutting corners in ways that impair the safety of their workers. These factors can lead to workers' compensation cases that have added legal issues that may not be obvious.
Various industries have seen an increase in subcontracting work to other companies. While the primary employer is maintaining the workplace safety standards, the subcontractor may not be. The subcontractor may send the workers to the main employer's site, but not provide all of the safety equipment to the employees that would be necessary to work safely there. In addition, the subcontracting nature of the situation may make workers more afraid to complain about workplace conditions because of fear of retaliation without the security of being an actual direct worker of the main employer.
Another factor that is useful to be aware of is industry norms for accidents. Each type of industry has a 'normal' or industry standard level of accidents per number of workers. When safety falls below certain standards, the factories or locations may be cited by Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or local versions of it, like Cal-OSHA. In addition to the citations there may be fines. These citations can clarify and support a worker's claim that the workplace is not safe in a specific way and may have contributed to the worker's injuries.
Whatever the details of a given case, in California and nationwide employees need to be well-versed about what their options are and what protection the law provides in any workers' compensation case. As the nature of employment continues to evolve in the U.S., the old rules may not apply. Workers who have good knowledge about their rights will be in the best position to ensure their workplace safety in the new environments.
Source: pe.com, "WORKPLACE: Warehouse operators hit with fines," Dec. 28, 2012