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Q: What are employers' responsibilities in the workplace?

A: Minnesota residents interested in workplace safety issues may wish to know what responsibilities an employer has under the law regarding safety. Failure to adhere to these responsibilities could lead the employer to fines and other penalties as well as an unsafe workplace.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has established a series of responsibilities that employers have in order to establish and maintain workplace safety. One major responsibility has to do with examining the workplace and ensuring that it is free from hazards and conforms to the standards set by OSHA. The employer must also warn their workers of any hazards that do exist, through the use of signs and color coding on the equipment. Tools and equipment must be provided to employees so that they may do their work in a safe manner.

When something does go wrong, such as an on-the-job accident, there are specific responsibilities that deal with the reporting and record-keeping regarding the incident. If a worker is killed in a work accident, the employer has only eight hours to report the incident to OSHA. When an injured worker suffers loss of a limb or eye or is hospitalized, that reporting time is extended to 24 hours. Records must be kept of these incidents as well as any injuries or illnesses at work except when the employer has fewer than 10 workers.

When an employer fails to follow these workplace safety guidelines, the risk of an accident can be serious. If an employee is injured on the job, that employee may be eligible for workers' comp benefits. These can cover lost wages and other expenses incurred due to the injury. An attorney may be able to help with the claims process and with other legal action, if necessary.

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