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What is OSHA's role in workers' compensation cases?

If you work in New York, you have heard of OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA defines, monitors, and enforces workplace health and safety standards, including imposing penalties on employers who fail to comply with those standards. But if you have been injured on the job in an unsafe situation, how do OSHA violations tie into workers' compensation claims?

According to interpretation by the American Bar Association, the relationship between workers' compensation claims and OSHA violations is complex. When an OSHA violation causes direct harm to an employee, they may have the right to pursue a claim based on the damages incurred. However, in the event of an OSHA violation alone employees may be barred from pursuing a case when such a case could be misconstrued as a personal act of enforcement of OSHA regulations. While many states have provisions that increase workers' compensation awards based on employer negligence under OSHA, New York is not one such state.

Legal precedent has made some exceptions for this. Those exceptions include cases involving cotton dust, asbestos, and lockout, with potential additions including diacetyl, silica, and combustible dust. However, for the most part OSHA's role in workers' compensation is regulatory at best, save for where it can be proved that employers failed to secure adequate workers' compensation coverage or somehow willfully engaged in acts violating OSHA regulations and endangering employee safety.

This article is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon or claimed as actionable legal advice.

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  • Walter J. Roesch IV
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