On-the-job injuries affect workers in every sector, but some workers are at a higher risk of injury because of their employers. The same people on whom we depend for paychecks and job security are also responsible for our workplace safety.
Should employers fail in their duty to provide a safe environment for workers, employees are at a higher risk of injury or of an occupational disease. Of course, there is a higher safety bar to reach if the job is uniquely hazardous.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other federal and state worker-protection agencies have enacted and enforce a myriad of safety regulations to which the law requires employers to adhere. These regulatory standards are often detailed and specific to keep employees in dangerous workplaces from harm.
Which employers pose the greatest threat?
There are several occupations and industries that we know to be especially dangerous for Illinois workers. Some of these jobs include:
- Waste collection
These and certain other jobs are inherently dangerous, which is why employers in these fields should take their obligation to comply with safety protocols and regulations especially seriously.
And it is not just the nature of a person’s job that can expose them to work-related hazards. The size of a business could be significant, as well.
For example, a smaller operation may not have the resources to comply with safety regulations. However, massive companies can also be unsafe when they fail to prioritize individual worker safety. In fact, some of the most dangerous employers in the U.S. are giant corporations that have the money and capabilities to make workplaces as safe as possible but choose not to.
What to do if an employer contributes to an injury or illness
If you feel your employer is ignoring regulations or allowing unsafe working conditions, you can file a safety and health or whistleblower complaint with OSHA or for Illinois state and local public employees, a safety or health hazard complaint with Illinois OSHA.
But if you suffer an injury on the job or develop a work-related illness, you should immediately get medical care, give your employer notice and file a workers’ compensation claim. Generally speaking, workers’ compensation laws prevent injured workers from suing their employers for work-related injury because workers’ compensation is almost always the exclusive legal remedy for workplace harm.
A narrow exception to this in Illinois is the right to bring a civil lawsuit against an employer if the employer intentionally (not negligently) hurt (or directed someone else to hurt) an employee. Sometimes, a suit against a third party is appropriate if they contributed to the work injury such as a property owner or landlord that allowed a dangerous condition to exist in the workplace or the designer, manufacturer or seller of dangerous or defective equipment.
It is crucial to discuss your legal options and rights with an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney.