Understanding OSHA’s General Duty Clause and how it applies to workers

Under OSHA’s General Duty Clause, employers are required to maintain an environment that does not contain risks that are likely to cause physical harm.

Under the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's General Duty Clause, employers in North Carolina and throughout the country are required to provide their employees with an environment that is free from hazards that are likely to result in serious injuries or death. To prevent serious injuries and deaths, employees are also expected to comply with occupational safety and health standards set forth by OSHA.

Criteria for a General Duty Clause violation

If employers fail to maintain a workplace free from serious hazards, OSHA has the right to cite employers for disobeying the General Duty Clause. However, according to the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, certain conditions must be satisfied in order for this to occur. These include the following:

  • There must be a hazard.
  • The hazard must be likely to cause serious physical harm or death.
  • The employer must be able to correct the hazard.
  • The hazard must be recognizable.

For example, employers may be cited under this clause if they require their employees to repeatedly lift items above shoulder height, if their location uses a conveyor system that does not have an immediate shut-off button or if highly reactive chemicals are improperly stored.

What to do after a workplace accident in North Carolina

Employees who work in an environment where hazards are present that defy the General Duty Clause and who sustain a serious injury as a result may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. However, in order for these benefits to be acquired, certain steps must be taken after the accident occurs.

First, according to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, employees must report their injury to their employer and seek necessary medical treatment. Second, employees must tell the doctor or other medical professionals they see that they have incurred a workplace injury and the name of their employer. Doing this allows the medical professional to bill the treatment as a workers' compensation claim.

Third, as soon as possible after the workplace accident occurs, employees must provide their employer with a statement that describes the sustained injury and the date of the accident. Finally, injured employees must follow their healthcare provider's instructions for medical treatment so that they are able to achieve full health as quickly as possible and return to work.

Handling an appeal

Even if all of these crucial steps are followed after a workplace accident occurs, employees in North Carolina may still be denied workers' compensation benefits. If your claim for compensation was denied, speak with an attorney to determine what legal steps you should take next.

Keywords: workers' compensation, injury, accident