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How workplace health and safety laws protect workers

Workplace health and safety laws are in place to help prevent workplace accidents, injuries and illnesses. Workplace health and safety laws include both federal and state laws, and federal laws are primary when there is an overlap or a conflict between the laws. The Occupational Health and Safety Act is the main law concerning workplace safety. In general, the OSH Act applies to private employers who engage in interstate commerce.

According to the OSH Act, the Secretary of Labor enacts health and safety standards to ensure the health and safety of workers and their families. The Secretary of Labor may also authorize workplace inspections to ensure regulations are being complied with; evaluate complaints concerning work conditions; and determine what regulations are necessary. Employers in violation of health or safety regulations can receive a citation. Fines are also a possibility and may depend on the nature and duration of the violation.

The Secretary of Labor is also empowered to seek injunctions to restrain workplace conditions or employer practices that threaten workplace health and safety. It is important for both employers and employees that workplace health and safety laws are taken seriously.

In addition to safety laws, there is also a network of legal options and resources available to an employee who has suffered a workplace injury or illness, or who has otherwise been harmed in a workplace accident. In every circumstance of a workplace accident that injures or harms an employee, it is important for workers and their families to be familiar with the different types of protections, including workers' compensation protections, available to them.

Source: Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, "Workplace Safety," Accessed July 6, 2015

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