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Worker rights
  • Under federal law, employees have the right to a safe workplace, and have the right to report health and safety hazards without fear of retaliation by their employers.
  • Employees also have the right to receive proper training, receive proper safety equipment, review records of workplace illnesses and injuries, and more.

The Wage and Hour Division of the Employment Standards Administration (ESA) had the authority to investigate and resolve complaints of on-the-job discrimination against workers (called whistleblowers) who call attention to violations of seven federal laws that protect the nation's air, water, environment and nuclear facilities. However, in February 1997 that responsibility was assumed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Federal law entitles employees to a safe workplace. Employers must keep the workplace free of known health and safety hazards. Employees have the right to speak up about hazards without fear of retaliation. They also have the right to:

  • Receive workplace safety and health training in a language they understand;
  • Work on machines that are safe;
  • Receive required safety equipment, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls;
  • Be protected from toxic chemicals;
  • Request an OSHA inspection and speak to the compliance officer;
  • Report an injury or illness and get copies of medical records;
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses; and
  • See results of tests taken to find workplace hazards.

Training tips for employers

Employers should keep the following in mind when designing safety and health training programs for employees:

  • Training should be delivered in a language that trainees understand. If a trainee’s vocabulary is limited, employers must account for that limitation. Translators may be needed.
  • Training should review employee rights under the OSH Act.
  • Training should include information about how employees should report dangerous or hazardous conditions in the workplace.