Anyone who is familiar with previous posts here know that workers in New York have certain rights and legal protections.. It's important to emphasize that they don't have to keep working in the face of imminent danger until an accident happens. OSHA provides steps for taking action in such conditions.
"Water. Rest. Shade. The work can't get done without them." Thus reads the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's banner atop their online resource for protecting outdoor workers from heat illness. Unfortunately, Utica employers all too often see it just the opposite way, pushing their employees to keep working in the heat until the work is done. Only then do they provide water, rest and shade.
The height of summer can be a dangerous time for Utica workers who work outside. There's an unfortunate tendency among employers to expect employees to "tough it out" when the temperatures soar. The reality, however, is that employers need to protect their employees from dangerous heat levels the same way they do other hazardous conditions.
We've spent some time this summer discussing the health and safety of outdoor workers in Utica. And while we've reviewed a lot of information from OSHA about who is at risk and what steps are necessary (especially on the employer's part) to prevent the onset of heat illness, we know that workers who suffer this condition may face backlash based on a lack of understanding.
As we began discussing last week, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration offers workers in Utica and throughout the country a number of rights. The agency's goal is to reduce the danger of a worker losing his or her life, or suffering injury, in a work-related accident. However, it's important to understand some key differences in how the agency regards different categories of workers.
All too often, Utica workers who suffer injuries in on-the-job accidents are made to feel as if their injuries are their own problem. Your employer, your insurance, perhaps even your coworkers may try to act as if your work-related accident was your own fault, or that hazardous conditions on the job are just a fact of life with which everyone has to deal.
Many Utica residents will recall the days when just about every teenager worked a fast-food job for a summer or two, or maybe picked up shifts throughout the school year as a way to save up some extra cash. Today, it's common for adults at just about any stage in life -- especially given the economy in recent years -- to work "flipping burgers" at a fast-food joint.
Last week's post here on our Syracuse Workers' Compensation Law Blog discussed a story in which hospital laundry workers were put at risk of exposure to serious illnesses. OSHA took action against the hospital in response. But this story afforded us a brief glimpse of what is, in fact, a profession in which many employee illnesses and injuries occur beneath the radar: that is the health care industry.
Businesses have important decisions to make about operating efficiently and protecting the bottom line. But when those decisions put their workers' health and safety at risk, OSHA will draw the line. Our Utica readers need look no further for evidence of this than a recent story from New York-Presbyterian hospital.
When most New Yorkers think of dangerous professions, they may think of logging, mining or construction. While these industries frequently experience high numbers of work-related accidents, workplace safety has drastically decreased in the health care field. Workplace violence has risen significantly, leaving nurses, attendants and social service workers fearing for their lives. Fortunately, there are ways in which employers can identify risk factors and provide safer alternatives for their employees.