Understanding Your Employer's Obligations Under OSHA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the federal agency charged with establishing and enforcing safety guidelines for all types of employers – including those in the oil and gas industry. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), oil and gas companies are subject to a comprehensive set of rules that govern everything from posting information about employees’ rights to means of egress from confined locations.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 823 men and women working in oil and gas extraction suffered job-related fatalities from 2003 to 2010. This represents a rate that is seven times higher than the national average across all industries. With the extreme dangers inherent in working in the fields, mines and plants, it is incumbent upon employers to provide safe work environments for their employees. This starts with following the OSHA guidelines.
General OSHA Standards
All companies that are subject to OSHA are required to meet certain basic requirements to protect the safety and wellbeing of their employees. These include:
• Providing a workplace that is free of serious recognized hazards
• Making sure employees have access to tools and machinery that are safe and properly maintained
• Posting warnings where potential hazards exist
• Establishing, updating and communicating safety and health-related policies and procedures
• Providing appropriate safety training
OSHA also requires employers to do things like keep records of workplace accidents, provide employees with access to their records and correct any cited regulatory violations.
OSHA Standards for the Oil and Gas Industry
In addition to the general standards that apply to all businesses, OSHA provides specific guidelines for employers in the oil and gas industry. There are actually two sections of the OSHA regulations that speak specifically to oil and gas. One is specific to site leveling, trenching and excavation. The other addresses all other aspects of oil and gas well drilling and servicing. These regulations address potential safety and risks relating to issues such as:
• Guarding floor openings and holes
• Emergency exit plans and maintenance of exit routes
• Safety systems for avoiding falls
• Occupational noise exposure
• Access to safety equipment for eye, face, head and respiratory protection
• Safe handling and disposal of hazardous materials
• Addressing air contaminants
• Fire prevention and protection
What if My Employer Isn’t Following OSHA?
If you believe your employer is not meeting its duties under OSHA, you are entitled to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. You are also entitled to request an inspection of your workplace. OSHA complaints and inspection requests can be kept confidential and the law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who report OSHA violations to the government.
If you suffered injuries as a result of an unsafe condition at work, you may also be entitled to workers’ compensation.
Contact The Spence Law Firm to Learn More
The Wyoming gas accident lawyers at The Spence Law Firm have decades of experience representing individuals who have suffered serious injuries in gas and oil accidents. To learn more about what we can do to help, please contact us today.