You have the right to a safe workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. The law requires that employers provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers. OSHA sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training and assistance to workers and employers. Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) if you have questions or want to file a complaint. We will keep your information confidential. We are here to help you.
OSHA also has a flyer about safety during disaster cleanup here. Some basic safety rules:
- Keep an adequate amount of clean water for drinking.
- Make sure workers are trained to do any complex or hazardous tasks.
- Provide the proper equipment such as gloves, respirators, boots, lifting equipment and eye protection.
A host of other specific fact sheets are here. Some particularly useful ones for hurricanes are:
- Hand hygiene and gloves in flooded areas.
- Chart of hazards and protective measures to take.
- Working outdoors in warm climates.
- Protecting workers from the effects of heat.
- Debris removal guidelines.
Bottom line for employers is don't be stupid. Don't have employees in business attire climbing ladders and removing debris. Make sure employees are properly dressed. Don't cheap out and try to use your clerical employees to move downed trees or work around downed power lines. The lawsuit you will face when someone is seriously injured or killed will cost you way more than hiring the correct folks for the job.
The worker's page for reporting problems and with more resources is here.
By the way, if your "exempt" employees are doing debris removal or other scut work, they probably aren't exempt from overtime for that work. But that's another issue for another day.