In this article, you will learn what the general clause duty is and get to know some examples of general duty clause violations.
Workplace injuries are tragically common in America. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 900,000 employees had to miss at least one day of work in 2013 after becoming injured, ill or disabled on the job.
Illinois companies are legally required to protect their workers from harmful situations and minimize the risk of a serious injury or workplace accident. One of the most powerful safeguards for injured workers is a law known as the general duty clause.
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What is the general duty clause?
When companies employ workers of any kind, they must provide a healthy, safe workplace with a minimum of avoidable dangers. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 sets out this requirement in clear and unambiguous form in the general duty clause. This clause states that employers must control all recognized hazards that may cause death, injury, illness, or physical harm. The general duty clause also underscores every employer’s obligation to comply with the standards of occupational safety and health promulgated by the Act and enforced by OSHA.
If an employee suffers injuries at your workplace, or submits a complaint about unsafe conditions, a Compliance Safety and Health Officer will most likely conduct an inspection to identify safety hazards at your job. Safety violations that are not clearly linked to Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) General industry (29 CFR 1910) or Construction (29 CFR 1926) standards are typically referred to as general duty clause violations. These issues may not be covered because of advancements in technology or revised safety practices. In some cases, they simply involve work practices or situations that were not addressed in the regulations.
If the CSHO identifies general duty clause violations in your workplace, and your employer fails to take reasonable steps to prevent or abate the hazards, your employer can be cited.
Do workers have responsibilities under the general duty clause?
Workers also have responsibilities under the general duty clause. They must cooperate with their employers in following OSHA standards in all areas of the workplace. They are required to report unsafe working conditions and violations of the Act. Whistle-blowers are legally protected from retaliation after reporting hazardous conditions on the job.
Examples of general duty clause violations
The general duty clause is applicable to a wide range of situations. The following recent cases are typical of the provisions set out by the Act:
- Line workers at a poultry processing plant who were subjected to hazardous and ergonomically unsound working conditions
- A group of workers in an Illinois manufacturing facility who were exposed to carcinogenic chemicals without sufficient protective gear
- More than 100 warehouse employees at a facility in South Dakota who were required to work throughout the winter in an insufficiently heated space
In all of these examples of general duty clause violations, employees appealed successfully for workers’ compensation benefits after suffering the effects of their unsafe working conditions.
Injured workers can appeal to the general duty clause
If workers are injured because of employer negligence or harmful working conditions, they can appeal to the general duty clause as they seek financial compensation for their medical expenses. To prove general duty clause violation, your attorney will need to show that:
- Your employer failed to keep your workplace free from hazards, to which you or other employees were exposed
- The hazard was recognized
- The hazard caused, or was likely to cause, serious injury or death to an employee
- A feasible method of correction existed
Injured Illinois workers have the right to assistance if they have suffered harm on the job. Contact a workers’ compensation attorney today to find out more about general duty clause violations and how OSHA regulations and safety inspections can protect you from suffering work-related injuries