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All workers in all industries and businesses get exposure to workplace hazards to some extent. For this reason, most managers have to comply with state and federal regulations regarding workers’ safety in the workplace.
Occupational hazards are more than a health matter for the people involved. They also represent a legal matter for managers and industries. Today, we discuss occupational dangers and what these workplace hazards mean for beginner startups and entrepreneurs.
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Common Types of Occupational Hazards
David Rowland, Head of Marketing at Engage EHS, knows the importance of safety in business. He claims that “the role of safety in business is vitally important. It is imperative that we are proactive in developing a positive safety culture in our businesses. What we need is a genuine cultural shift, and this can have a profound impact on not just our workers, but also other KPIs such as consumer confidence and reputation.”
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recognizes a handful of workplace hazards that might threaten the safety, health, and even life of your employees. OSHA sets limits and threshold exposure standards of workers to accidents, toxic substances, and dangerous environmental factors that could lead to injuries, debilitating health conditions, chronic diseases, or even death. Managers should be aware of the following hazards:
These workplace hazards are most likely to occur in office spaces. They include the musculoskeletal system’s harms and injuries. Low lighting, poor desk posture, intensive computer work, repetitive movements, and more.
These workplace hazards are common to all industries and businesses. Physical threats are also the highest in number. They include trips, slips and falls, exposure to loud noises, working with heavy machinery, working at heights, vibrations, fires, electricity-related injuries, and more.
Chemical hazards come from the exposure of workers to harmful substances, toxic vapors and fumes, dangerous particles and fibers, gases, and other contaminants. These are workplace hazards that can cause massive health issues for employees as well as loss of life. Endless lawsuits sometimes ensue.
Some industries and businesses present more significant risks of exposing their workers to such threats.
These workplace hazards are common in the healthcare industry. Biological hazards come from exposure to dangerous contaminants coming from people, animals, or plants. The best-known examples are threats from blood and bodily fluids, bacteria, viruses, animal and insect bites, and more.
Other Workplace Hazards
These are hazards in the workplace associated with non-routine situations or emergencies. Some examples include structural collapses, fire and explosions, accidental spills of hazardous materials, weather emergencies and natural disasters, medical emergencies, workplace violence, disease outbreaks, and more.
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Workers’ Compensation Insurance and Lawsuits
Looking at these potential workplace hazards and the lawsuits that any of them could generate, beginner entrepreneurs might feel like any business is a death trap for their employees. In reality, however, as an employer, you have plenty of means at your disposal to keep everyone safe. Additionally, you can keep your company safe, and you have a responsibility to do so.
The law requires all businesses to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This is because workplace hazard lawsuits can affect any company of any size and experience.
As a responsible business owner, you should consider your options when it comes to ensuring the safety of everyone working for you. Workers’ compensation insurance is available through the state or a licensed insurance provider. If employees seek damages for their injuries via this type of no-fault insurance, they cannot sue you. This is because workers’ compensation insurance shields you from tort liability.
In other words, you can use your workers’ compensation insurance not as a shield, but as a common-sense and decent means to an end. You can help an employee who slipped, fell, and thus had to spend a few days in the hospital with a broken arm. As long as you play things fair, few people will sue you for back pains they get from working on their computers—provided you offered them all the safety conditions required by the law.
Workplace Hazards That Could Result in Lawsuits
Nevertheless, in some situations, your workers will sue you—and they are within their right to do so. However, when they do, they forfeit their workers’ compensation benefits.
Such cases have a lot to do with illnesses that occur due to the employees’ exposure to occupational hazards that workers’ compensation cannot even begin to cover. While not a definitive list, such problems that most likely lead to lawsuits include:
- Occupational cancers due to the exposure to carcinogenic substances in the workplace. We are sure you know about the asbestos problems that are still plaguing American workers even today. For this reason, we hope all understand that mesothelioma or asbestosis are grounds for individual or class action lawsuits.
- Work-related lung diseases caused by exposure to harmful toxins, chemicals, and other substances.
- Hearing or vision losses due to an employer’s disregard of OSHA standards for safety.
- Other physical or mental disabilities caused by unsafe working environments.
Social Security Disability Claims
In case of workplace hazards, your workers most likely will hire an attorney, as they need support for SSD claims. (In this instance, SSD stands for Social Security Disability.)
Most SSD personal injury claims related to insecure working places or employers’ legal negligence include COPD and other breathing conditions. They can also include sensory losses, depression and other psychologic/psychiatric disorders, and non-fast-track cancers (like mesothelioma, for instance).
Lawyers can obtain SSD benefits for their clients and help them achieve some level of normality, at least from a legal and financial point of view.
However, besides filing for SSD benefits, your harmed employees might want to file a lawsuit against you. Personal injury attorneys can build a case against a company if the employees can prove the following:
- The employer knew about the occupational risks associated with the job but did not inform the workers correctly or at all about these workplace hazards.
- A company willfully disregarded OSHA’s limitations and standards regarding workplace hazards.
- An employer failed to ensure the proper protection methods to avoid or limit workers’ exposure to harmful substances and carcinogens that lead to occupational cancers. These measures include adequate protection against asbestos, benzene (linked to acute myelogenous leukemia), vinyl chloride (linked to liver cancer), and more.
- A business disregarded OSHA regulations regarding workplace safety. As a consequence, employees suffered a life-threatening injury, a disability, or a debilitating accident that prevents them from working or living a normal life anymore.
What to Do to Minimize Hazards in the Workplace
When it comes to lawsuits, as an employer, you should also hire a personal injury attorney to offer you support with choosing the best workers’ compensation insurance. Your attorney will also help you navigate the maze that is personal injury law, OSHA regulations, and other legal matters. Even if you do not go to trial or a settlement meeting, you will most likely pay hefty fines to OSHA for violating the rules.
Moreover, it would be best if you allowed your employees to identify the most hazardous aspects of their workplace and their work. They are the people best equipped to provide insight on how to control these hazards.
Additionally, you should perform hazard identification and assessment in the workplace frequently. It is crucial to locate and supervise regularly all the dangerous elements of your company or employees’ work. Then you must come up with a plan to identify, avoid, control, and mitigate all incidents. It is also wise to devise strategies to protect your workers in case of emergencies and non-routine activities.
Most importantly, be honest. Do not deny the existence of workplace hazards in your business, and put your workers’ well-being and life over money.
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