What is the General Duty Clause and How Does it Apply to PA workers?

The General Duty Clause requires employers to maintain a workplace environment free from hazards to protect the safety of their employees.

Workers in Pennsylvania expect to go to their workplace every day and not experience situations that could put them in serious dangerous. However, many employees find that they have to perform their duties in an environment that is not free from hazards, despite the existence of the General Duty Clause.

Employer and employee duties

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers are required to provide a workplace that does not contain any serious hazards that are likely to result in injury or death. In return, employees are required to act in such a way that they do not create situations that render themselves at risk for serious harm.

Criteria for issuing a violation

In order for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to cite a business for violating the terms of the General Duty Clause, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health states that the following conditions must be present:

  • There must actually be a hazard.
  • The hazard must be recognizable.
  • There must be a way to correct the hazard.
  • Exposure to the hazard must be likely to put employees in situations that could result in serious harm or death.

For example, employers violate this clause when they store highly reactive chemicals improperly or when they require their employees to continually lift heavy loads over shoulder height. Employers can also violate this clause when employees have to stand for extended periods of time without proper support or if their location houses a pipe-threading machine without an automatic shutoff button.

Coping with an injury

Employees who are injured in a workplace accident because their employer failed to provide a safe workplace may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. These benefits, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, include payments for lost wages, specific loss benefits and medical care. Additionally, the family of a worker who passes away in a workplace accident may also be eligible to receive death benefits.

To ensure they are not denied these benefits, injured workers should promptly report the accident and their injury after it occurs. After the initial report has been made, employers are required to notify the Bureau of Workers' Compensation about the incident.

Reach out to an attorney

Even if they promptly report their injury, employees may still struggle to receive the workers' compensation benefits they need to make a full recovery and eventually return to work. In a situation like this, Pennsylvania workers should contact an attorney in their area for legal assistance.