Understanding what the General Duty Clause entails

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

When employees go to work in Pennsylvania, they expect that their employer will take certain precautions to provide a safe workspace that is void of serious hazards. However, despite the existence of the General Duty Clause, many employees incur serious injuries while they go about their daily duties due to an unsafe workplace environment.

Employer and employee responsibilities

Under the General Duty Clause, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employers are required to maintain a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that are likely to result in serious physical harm or death. Comparatively, employees must conduct themselves in a way that prevents situations and accidents that could result in harm to themselves and fellow co-workers.

General Duty Clause violations

Before an employer can be cited for violating the General Duty Clause, there are four conditions that have to be met. First, a hazard must be present, and second, it must be recognizable. Third, the hazard must be likely to result in injuries or death, and fourth, the employer must be able to correct the hazard.

There are many different ways in which an employer can create an unsafe work environment and put his or her employees at risk. These include some of the following examples:

  • Employees are required to frequently lift heavy items above their shoulders.
  • There is no way for employees to contact emergency medical assistance while working alone.
  • The workplace houses a pipe-threading machine that lacks an automatic shut-off system.
  • Highly reactive chemicals are stored in the workplace improperly.
  • Employees are required to stand for long periods of time without proper support.
  • A forklift truck is used by employees that lacks adequate fall protection or securing features.

When employees are injured due to a workplace hazard, they are eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, employees can receive payment for lost wages, specific loss benefits if the use of a body part, such as a finger or leg, is permanently lost and medical care. The family members of an employee who passes away in a workplace accident are also eligible to receive death benefits.

Contact an attorney

Employees in Pennsylvania who are seriously injured in a workplace accident may be unsure of how to proceed, especially if they are unfamiliar with the workers' compensation system. When this occurs, injured workers should reach out to an attorney in their area who can help them ensure the right to benefits.