According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly one in 30 workers in America reported a disabling work-related illness or injury in 2012. Many of these disabilities are caused by exposure to hazardous materials. Employees in a wide range of professions, from factory work to medical care, are endangered by harmful substances on the job. A new Illinois bill currently under deliberation, SB 2918, aims to prevent injury and illness through the proposed Illinois Hazardous Materials Workforce Training Act. This act is designed to educate workers about the dangers they face in high hazard facilities.
How does the Illinois Hazardous Materials Workforce Training Act function?
The Illinois Hazardous Materials Workforce Training Act implements a safety training curriculum to decrease the risk of workplace accidents among employees who work full-time or part-time at high hazard locations. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is charged with developing a program of training that applies to the entire range of workplace situations. All contractors and subcontractors are required to use only workers who have successfully completed the training mandated by the Act. If SB 2918 passes in the Illinois legislature, the Act will be effective immediately.
What happens if an employer refuses to follow the requirements of the Act?
If an employer refuses to comply with the provisions of the Act, each violation is subject to a penalty of up to $10,000. When the Act is violated on multiple days, each day incurs a separate fine. A full week of non-compliance could cost an employer as much as $70,000. All fines are paid to the Illinois EPA and placed directly into a fund dedicated to improving on-the-job safety training in Illinois.
Are there any exceptions to the Act?
The Hazardous Materials Workforce Training Act does not apply in the following situations:
- Emergency situations that make it impossible to assemble a sufficiently trained workforce
- Immediate threats to public health or environmental safety
- Acute workforce shortages that prevent an employer, contractor or subcontractor from finding qualified labor within 48 hours of the initial request
The 48-hour rule does not apply on weekends or holidays. Employers must make a good faith effort to seek qualified workers for two full business days before resorting to untrained labor.
Increased safety for Illinois employees
If SB 2918 is successful and the Hazardous Materials Workforce Training Act is implemented, Illinois employees will enjoy a higher standard of safety training and protection on the job. Contact a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney today to find out more about the rights of injured workers.