The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the federal agency most urgently tasked with helping to ensure the safety of the American workforce. Unfortunately, none of OSHA's efforts are able to benefit workers unless employers either comply with the agency's regulations willingly or are compelled to comply due to strong enforcement mechanisms.
Recently OSHA announced that employers would be held to new standards due to the agency's newly released work-related injury and illness record-keeping rule. One of the most important provisions within that new rule focuses on anti-retaliation enforcement. This provision helps to protect workers who report safety-related incidents. When this rule goes into effect, workers will have fewer reasons to fear reporting safety challenges on the job. However, the enforcement of this rule has been delayed once again.
What is the holdup?
The enforcement of this rule has already been held up twice during 2016. It has been most recently delayed due to a lawsuit filed by business groups who want the rule to be struck down. Although the argument is fairly illogical, these business groups insist that the rule's incident-based safety incentive initiatives and other important provisions will not help to make American work environments safer.
It is not unusual for business groups to challenge OSHA rules before they become enforceable. Keeping workplaces safe is expensive and initiatives that harm a business's bottom line are, understandably, not always met with enthusiasm. However, this rule is important enough that hopefully no further delays will impede its enforcement.
The quicker the better
When individuals are seriously injured while on the job, they tend to seek both compensation and justice not only for themselves but also, in a very real sense, for their fellow workers. When unsafe work environments and negligent employment practices remain unchecked, employers have few incentives to address safety-related gaps in their operations. When employers are held accountable to both the government and their employees, work environments tend to become safer.
Helping to ensure that workers who witness safety incidents or are harmed as a result of those incidents are protected under the law is critical. Although experienced workers' compensation attorneys can aid victims who have been retaliated against, the ideal Americans should be striving for is a lack of retaliatory behavior in the first place. Thus, it is vitally important that this new rule be respected and enforced as soon as is possible.