No matter what industry you’re in, it is of utmost importance that you pay attention to the legal aspects of operating your company. If you hire third-party workers to complete jobs on your worksite, the legal obligations you must follow add up even more. Nonetheless, remaining compliant can remain a straightforward target, provided that you put the necessary measures in place. An important topic associated with many unanswered questions is the topic of workers’ rights. More specifically, some of these questions are; what are workers’ rights? What do they do to safeguard the interests of both the employer and worker? How do I ensure that all levels of an organization understand and are aware of the implementation said rights?
When it comes to safety, all workers have a number of rights that protect them and afford them a safe and healthy environment to work in. This includes contractors, who must also be protected from potential safety hazards. Contractors have the right to know what hazards are present in the workplace and how to protect themselves from them. They should also be provided with adequate safety equipment and training. Employers have a responsibility to provide contractors with a workplace that is free from recognized hazards such as toxic chemicals, faulty machinery, and extreme temperatures. They are also required to ensure that contractors are aware of any safety policies and procedures that must be followed. Finally, employers must provide contractors with access to medical care and a means of filing a complaint if they feel their rights are being violated. By adhering to these requirements, employers can ensure that all workers, including contractors, are safe and protected in the workplace. With that in mind, let’s dive deeper into what each of these rights actually means and what they entail.
The Right to A Safe Workplace:
The first vital step of workers’ rights covers their entitlement to work under safe conditions that are free from any known hazards. It goes without saying that organizations must regularly upkeep, inspect, and address changes in the workplace that result in hazards. This includes having fully operational machines, adequate safety signage, fall/spill protection in place, and so on. Not covering all the bases in this first step is a surefire way to increase your liability through the likelihood of a workplace injury or complaint to OSHA.
The Right to Know:
While it is a legal obligation to operate a worksite free of known hazards, unforeseen risks may arise along the way. Possibly the most simple and most important aspect, workers’ reserve the right to know about all potential hazards that are present at a workplace. They should be informed of them prior to beginning a job, once they arrive at the jobsite, and in a timely manner as hazards arise during a project. Why does this matter? Both on an operational and legal level, providing your workforce with accurate hazard communication is integral to reducing risk. If workers know of the hazards that exist prior to beginning their work, they can approach their tasks mindfully and with the intent of steering clear from anything that may harm them. Communicating said hazards is a responsibility that relieves the hiring organization of increased liability should a workplace incident arise. This is because once you’ve communicated present risks to a worker, the duty is also on them to ensure that they conduct themselves in a safe and responsible manner by not engaging with active hazards, such as faulty machines that should not be operated.
The Right to Training/Equipment:
When a contractor is brought on for a job, it is the hiring organization’s responsibility to ensure that they have received adequate training and the necessary equipment to safely perform their tasks. Safety training should be delivered through an easily accessible medium, and provided in plain language in order to reduce misunderstandings. Furthermore, organizations should provide their workers with a means of contact to clear any confusion either during, or after their training is complete.
When it comes to personal protective equipment, getting it right the first time around is paramount to your contractor management program. In order to meet the most basic requirements, you must ensure that all of your workers are afforded the necessary PPE for their role as it is their legal right. To take it a step further, invest in innovative equipment that puts an emphasis on comfort and efficiency. The more comfortable your contractors are in their gear, the more inclined they will be to follow safety measures to the t.
Protection From Retaliation:
A good contractor management program is designed to protect workers. But if workers feel unsafe, they are well within their right to file a complaint or request an OSHA inspection. While that may pose a burden to the hiring organization, federal laws require you to refrain from retaliation in any form. Such responses include but are not limited to, termination of employment, demotion from a position, or a work transfer. Doing so may result in even further complications. If a worker feels as if they have been retaliated against due to their voicing of workplace safety concerns, they’re able to file a whistleblower complaint directly to OSHA. It is your duty to ensure that you provide a safe space for your workforce to voice safety related complaints and concerns, it is in the best interest of both parties involved.
Governing bodies have spent decades implementing a comprehensive list of workers’ rights that serve to protect both you and your contractors. If followed correctly, these protocols create a safer and more productive workplace for everyone involved. From a hiring organization’s perspective, ensure that you cover all ground and are fully knowledgeable on workers’ rights in order to provide your workers with the best possible work environment, all while protecting your company from any added risk and liability. These are just some of the many workers’ rights that you must keep in mind for the success of your organization. For more clarification and a full list of rights and employer responsibilities, check out OSHA’s standards on Worker Rights and Protection.
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