Employment Accidents — An Overview
Three Department of Labor (DOL) agencies have responsibility for the administration and enforcement of the laws enacted to protect the safety and health of workers. These are the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which contains rules concerning the employment of workers under the age of 18. Almost every state has a workers’ compensation department, the benefits under which vary from state to state.
OSHA or OSHA-approved systems regulate safety and health conditions in most private industries. Nearly every employee comes under OSHA’s jurisdiction. There are some exceptions such as miners, some transportation workers, many public employees, and the self-employed. In addition to the requirements to comply with the regulations and safety and health standards contained in the OSH Act, employers subject to the Act have a general duty to provide work and a workplace free from recognized, serious hazards.
According to the Act, every employer shall furnish to every employee a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. In addition, employers shall comply with occupational safety and health standards that are included in the Act.
The Department of Labor has an Employment Standards Administration division (ESA) whose mission is to enhance the welfare and protect the rights of workers. As an enforcement and benefit delivery agency, the ESA is composed of four major programs one of which is responsible for workers’ compensation, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs.
Workers who are injured while on the job, who have been injured in association with their job or who have safety or health issues directly related to their job may be covered under workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a system of laws outlining specific benefits to which an injured employee is entitled, including lost wages and medical expenses. In other words, it is an important safety net for employees when they are injured while on the job or because of a job.
The specific issues associated with each case must be explored to determine the benefits an employee may be entitled to receive. In addition, depending upon the type of accident and injury, the worker may also be able to file a personal injury suit against one or more of the contractors involved, which does not affect workers’ compensation claims or benefits.
In general, workers’ compensation benefits provide regular weekly payments, medical coverage, vocational training, and other benefits to workers injured in the course of their employment. The basic purpose of the law is to provide prompt compensation for impairment of earning capacity. The Compensation Act sets strict deadlines for the processing of the claims, and imposes penalties on insurers who fail to make timely benefit payments when required. Employees also have strict timelines for reporting injuries or employment related temporary or permanent disabilities.