Understanding OSHA’s General Duty Clause

Under the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s General Duty Clause, employers are required to maintain a safe workplace environment.

Employers in New York and throughout the rest of the country are required to provide their employees with an environment that is safe for their employees to work in. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, employers are responsible for maintaining a workplace that is free from hazards that are likely to cause serious workplace injuries or death under the General Duty Clause. In return, employees must abide by certain regulations relating to their actions and conduct.

General Duty Clause violations

If employers fail to maintain a safe place for their employees to work, OSHA may issue a 5(a) (1) citation, states the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. For example, an employer may be cited under this clause if he or she:

  • Requires employees to continually lift heavy items above shoulder height
  • Runs a location with a conveyor belt that lacks functioning emergency stop devices
  • Requires employees to stand for long periods of time without support
  • Does not provide a way for employees to contact emergency medical assistance when they perform duties alone
  • Improperly stores highly reactive chemicals
  • Has employees use a forklift truck at elevated heights without adequate fall protection

However, certain factors must be present for OSHA to issue one of these citations. The NCOSH states that the hazard must actually exist, be recognizable, be likely to cause serious injuries or death and be correctable.

Benefits are available, regardless of fault

Regardless of if a work-place accident is the fault of the employee or the fault of the employer because he or she failed to maintain a workplace accident free of serious hazards, employees are still eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits, states the New York State Workers' Compensation Board. Additionally, the amount of compensation injured employees receive after a workplace accident is not impacted by their carelessness or the negligence of their employer. However, employees may become ineligible to receive these benefits if they were intoxicated by drugs or alcohol at the time or the accident or caused the accident with an intent to harm themselves or one of their co-workers.

Available benefits

According to the NYSWCB, injured workers may be awarded Social Security, medical, supplemental and cash benefits after a workplace accident occurs. Additionally, the family members of employees who are killed as a result of a workplace accident may be eligible to obtain death benefits on behalf of their deceased family member.

However, some injured employees in New York may find that their employer is not willing to cooperate with them when they attempt to file a claim for these benefits. If you were injured at work, consult with an attorney to find out what you can do to protect your rights to proper compensation.

Keywords: OHSA, workplace, safety, injury