When you get hurt in the job in Oklahoma, you know you can make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. One of the things you need to do to collect those benefits is inform your supervisor or boss about your injury. Your employer, in turn must report the injury to the insurance company. If an employee is killed or catastrophically injured, the employer is also supposed to report it to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.
But what about workers? Can they report safety violations to OSHA – and should they?
What is OSHA?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the government agency in charge of ensuring “safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” This organization is the one that makes sure your workplace is as reasonably safe as possible.
Back in 1970 when the agency was first created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, workers did not have the rights that we do today. Today, OSHA gives you the right to speak up about workplace hazards without fear of consequence. OSHA also guarantees your right to:
- Receive safety and health training at your workplace in a language you understand.
- Work with and on machines that are safe.
- Be given proper safety equipment and tools, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls.
- Be given protection from toxic chemicals.
- Ask for an OSHA inspection, and to speak to the inspector.
- Report an illness or injury acquired at work, and obtain copies of your medical records.
- Review records of injuries and illnesses related to work.
- See the results of any tests taken in search of workplace hazards.
How do I report a complaint to OSHA?
If you are injured at work due to a hazardous working condition, then you should file a complaint with OSHA. There are many ways in which you can file a complaint. The agency lists the avenues here, and includes filing a complaint through an online form, fax, telephone, and through in person appointments. If you are worried that you might receive some backlash despite your right to the opposite, you need not worry because OSHA allows you to fill out your complaint form confidentially:
You (or your representative) have the right to file a confidential safety and health complaint and request an OSHA inspection of your workplace if you believe there is a serious hazard or if you think your employer is not following OSHA standards. The complaint should be filed as soon as possible after noticing the hazard. A signed complaint is more likely to result in an onsite inspection.
It is illegal for you to be fired, demoted, or otherwise punished for having reported a workplace hazard to OSHA. It is your legal right to be able to make sure your workspace is a safe one. However, employers do not always act in a legal way, so if you think you have been retaliated against at work for having notified OSHA of a workplace safety violation, OSHA provides a method that you can report your employer for retaliating against you.
What happens if my workers’ compensation claim is denied after I make a report?
In an ideal world, after you reported the injury to your employer, you would soon receive compensation for any missed salary and payment for your medical bills; however, employers do not always think about what’s best for you, but what is best for them and their business. Some issues you may face include:
- Your employer doubting the seriousness of the injury.
- A workers’ compensation insurance company attempting to delay your claim, coming up with repeated hoops for you to jump through before paying the benefits you are entitled to receive.
- An IME doctor claiming you are not truly injured, even though your primary care physician has a different diagnosis and report.
- Your employer firing you “for cause” on the heels of your report.
Note – and this is important – that Oklahoma is generally an employment at will state. This means, per the Oklahoma Bar Association, that “an employee works and a business employs on an ‘at will’ basis, and either may cease the employment relationship at any time.” There are exceptions to this rule, however, and firing an employee in retaliation for filing a safety complaint with OSHA will likely fit the bill. (Any retaliation by your employer for reporting the injury, by being fired, demoted or passed over for promotion is illegal.) You might also be protected under the terms of your contract. If you have made a safety complaint and then lost your job, you may have legal recourse.
What do I do if I can’t collect workers’ compensation?
If you get hurt on the job because of a safety violation and you’re not entitled to workers’ compensation, you should still report that issue to issue. You may also be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party. Who that party is – your employer, a colleague, a third-party on the job site, or even a manufacturer of a defective product – can vary, but we can help you determine your best course of action.
So should you call OSHA? We think so. We also think you should get yourself a lawyer because the claims process can quickly become a complex and complicated quagmire, and it is important that you have a knowledgeable and hardworking team on your side. It can mean the difference between being denied or granted payments of your benefits. We have history securing significant compensation for our clients.
At Biby Law Firm, we are here to help you fight for what is rightfully yours through the law. Everyone deserves help for injuries they sustain while working. Do not delay in seeking our counsel if you encounter problems with getting a workers’ compensation case in motion. Call our Tulsa worksite accident lawyers at 918-574-8458, or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment. Initial consultations are always free.
Jacob Biby has spent his legal career helping folks just like you get the resources they need after an injury. He completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State University and earned his Juris Doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 2008. Jacob is licensed to practice in all Oklahoma state and federal courts, and has limited his career to representing individuals and families who were injured by the negligence of other people or corporations. Learn more about Jacob Biby.