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How can employees protect themselves from workplace injuries?

Employees in all industries in California are exposed to numerous safety hazards, and while most of them rely on their employers to protect their safety and health as required by federal law, workers may not be aware of the role they can play in staying safe. Workplace injuries can be life-changing, and even if there is a full recovery, the loss of income can ruin anybody's financial stability. Although workers have some safety responsibilities, they also have many rights.

Employees must read the safety posters provided by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and comply with the agency's regulations along with those of the employer. They must promptly report hazards and also any injuries or illnesses that are job-related. It is also the duty of employees to give full cooperation to any compliance officers of OSHA during safety inspections.

To protect their own safety, workers who notice unaddressed hazards and OSHA safety violations can confidentially request an OSHA inspection and insist on having an employee representative, such as a union member, present during such an inspection. Workers may have informal conversations with OSHA inspectors and be informed of citations issued and fines proposed against the employer. Furthermore, if there are any abatement requests, employees may be notified, and they could even contest such applications.

If employees feel that their safety concerns are not addressed at state level, they may resort to filing a complaint with the federal authorities of OSHA. These and other rights can be exercised by California employees to limit incidents that cause workplace injuries. However, if a worker has suffered injuries on the job or contracted an occupational illness, he or she will be entitled to file a workers' compensation benefits claim to help with medical bills and lost wages. The ideal person that an injured worker can have in his or her corner would be an experienced workers' compensation attorney to help with navigating the claim to obtain maximum benefits.

Source: osha.gov, "Worker Rights and Responsibilities," accessed on Aug. 23, 2017

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