What is the General Duty Clause and how does it impact injured workers?

Under the General Duty Clause, employers are required to maintain a workplace that is free from hazards that could cause injury or death.

Employees in North Carolina expect their employer will provide them with a workplace environment that is free from hazards. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's General Duty Clause, employers are required to maintain a working environment free from hazards that could cause serious injuries or death.

Criteria for a violation

There are several requirements that must be met in order for an employer to be cited for violating the General Duty Cause. These include the following:

  • The hazard must actually exist.
  • The hazard must be recognizable.
  • The employer must be able to correct the hazard.
  • The hazard must be likely to cause harm to employees.

Employers have the opportunity to correct hazards after an OSHA inspection, but if they do not do so, they will be cited by the organization.

Examples of violations

There are many different ways an employers can violate the General Duty Clause. For example, an employer violates this clause if he or she requires employees to regularly lift large loads over shoulder height or if he or she does not provide ways for employees to summon emergency medical assistance while working alone. An employer also violates this clause if hazardous chemicals are stored improperly, conveyor systems have no automatic shut-off devices or employees are required to stand for extended periods of time without proper support.

Handling an injury

Employees who are injured because their employer failed to provide a safe workspace must follow a certain process to receive workers' compensation benefits, which may include compensation for medical care and lost wages, states the North Carolina Industrial Commission. First, employees must report the accident to their employer and seek proper medical care.

Second, injured employees should be sure to let their healthcare provider know the injury is related to a workplace accident. Third, within 30 days of the accident, employees should give their employer written notice of the injury. Finally, employees should follow any instructions their employer gave them for medical treatment. Employees can receive updates about their workers' compensation claim by contacting the Industrial Commission.

Turn to an attorney

After involvement in a workplace accident, employees in North Carolina may have a difficult time receiving the benefits they need, especially if their employer disputes the incident. In a situation like this, employees should contact the attorneys at Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler for legal assistance asserting their rights to proper compensation so they can move forward with the recovery process.