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Exposure to Dangerous Chemicals at Work

Dangerous chemicals are more common than one might expect. Many businesses work with them. From ordinary materials like the cleaning bleach or gasoline, to more exotic industrial chemicals, exposure can cause serious injuries or even diseases like cancer and respiratory failure. Employees who are injured by exposure to chemicals at work should file a workers’ compensation claim.

Workplace safety, chemicals, and liability

Most Nevada employers who handle dangerous materials are subject to a broad range of safety regulations under the Nevada Occupational Health and Safety Act, or OSHA. Nevada’s OSHA law is a variant of the federal OSHA standard, which provides most of the key rules governing workplace safety, including rules covering chemical hazards and toxic substances. OSHA is a regulatory regime that does not provide a private remedy for someone who is injured as a consequence of an employer’s failure to comply with its requirements. Employees who wish to raise concerns with Nevada’s oversight authority are protected by whistleblower laws from retaliation by the employer. Workers’ compensation is the sole remedy available to most people who are injured on the job. The workers’ compensation system strikes a bargain between employers and employees: in exchange for requiring all employers to carry insurance that will provide benefits for their employees who are injured at work, employers are shielded from liability for most types of workplace injuries. Workers’ comp is a no-fault form of insurance, which means that the insurer will not base its coverage decisions on the extent to which the employer or employee was at fault in the accident. This does not mean that fault has no effect on workers’ compensation: if the employer is failing to adhere to safety standards, its premiums will go up or it may lose coverage altogether and be forced to shut down until the problem is corrected. This, together with the employer’s interest in having a safe and healthy workforce, should provide employers with plenty of incentive to meet or exceed OSHA standards.

Considerations for making a workers’ compensation claim

An employee who is exposed to dangerous chemicals at work should report the incident to supervisors in writing. The employee should also keep keep a copy of the report and make notes about what happened, including when and where the accident occurred and the specific chemical that was involved. If the exposure caused an immediate injury that required medical attention, letting the treating physician know that the injury was work-related is an important part of the claims process. Records become crucially important when a chemical exposure leads to long-term illness. Especially if the exposure causes a problem like cancer, the employee may not be fully aware of the disease for a long time after the initial exposure. By making detailed reports and keeping records, the employee can make future claims easier to defend. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented clients in the Las Vegas area in workers’ compensation cases. We can help anyone who has suffered a workplace injury in Nevada pursue the benefits they deserve. For a free attorney consultation, call us at 702-388-4476 or through our contact page.

What Obligations Does an Employer Have to Help an Injured Employee?

Employers in Nevada have a number of obligations related to injured employees. One way to break down the obligations is to look at each of them according to when they arise. Some obligations arise as soon as the employee starts work. Others arise in the immediate response to an injury. And still others apply in the aftermath of the injury, when the employer’s assistance with the employee’s workers’ compensation claim can be the difference between an accepted or denied claim.
  1. Pre-injury obligations.
Most Nevada employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance that protects their employees in the event they are injured on the job. Not carrying insurance is a significant violation of law, subjecting the company to potential criminal prosecution, regulatory actions, and fines. Few employers want to risk losing their business over a failure to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. But from time to time an employer operates without it in hopes of saving some money, putting employees at risk. Under state and federal workplace safety laws (commonly known as OSHA) employers over a certain size have a general duty to provide a safe working environment for their employees, as well as specific obligations relating to particular hazards such as electrical or chemical work. Although OSHA rules do not provide for a private cause of action, they do provide an important baseline of safety that protects employees from working in substandard conditions.
  1. Obligations in the immediate aftermath of an injury.
When an employee suffers an injury in Nevada the employer has an obligation to assist the injured employee with obtaining emergency medical treatment. That might include calling 911, and might also include administering emergency care such as CPR, performing triage on a wound, and so forth. Many employers are taking steps to train their staff in emergency first aid, in part because such programs can help them lower workers’ compensation costs.
  1. Obligations as the employee recovers.
The recovery phase of a serious injury is where things can get quite complex. There are a range of obligations that employers have with respect to employees who have been injured on the job:
  • They may not take adverse employment actions against them based solely on their having suffered or reported an injury.
  • They must keep good records of the incident and report it to the state.
  • They are required to cooperate with any investigation that arises due to the employee’s workers’ compensation claim, such as if the insurance adjuster has questions about whether the injury was work-related.
  • They must comply with laws governing an injured employee’s options for returning to work, including offering light duty where appropriate.
  • They must make reasonable accommodations for an employee who has suffered a disability.
As one might expect, the above list only glosses over the surface of what might be involved in a given case. Quite often the injured employee can benefit from the assistance of an attorney with experience handling workers’ compensation cases. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area pursue workers’ compensation claims. If you have been injured at work and you have questions about how to get the coverage you deserve, call us today for a free attorney consultation at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Injuries Caused by Broken Equipment at Work

Workplace equipment can endure a lot of heavy abuse, especially in industries like construction or transportation. That equipment can break down and become a danger to employees is one reason that responsible employers incorporate routine maintenance checks into their risk management programs. But broken or badly maintained equipment can still end up in use, and workers can be injured as a consequence.

Equipment maintenance and the law

Nevada employers have an affirmative duty to maintain their work environments in a condition that is safe for employees. Under the standards set by Nevada’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), NRS 618 et seq., and its related regulations, employers with at least eleven employees are required to adopt formal safety programs, which among other things should address potential hazards like wear and tear on dangerous equipment. OSHA is a regulatory program enforced by the Nevada Division of Industrial Relations (DIR). Although employees can make complaints to the DIR about safety problems at work, they are not able to take direct legal action themselves against their employers for safety violations. The DIR may respond to complaints by pursuing investigations into safety violations, which may result in fines and, in extreme cases, litigation.

Bad equipment and workers’ compensation

Workers who are injured by inadequately maintained equipment can be surprised to learn that their only recourse for recovery may be workers’ compensation. Nevada’s workers’ compensation system has several features that come into play. First, it is an exclusive remedy, which bars most personal injury lawsuits against employers who comply with their workers’ comp obligations. Second, it is no-fault insurance, which means that an injured employee will be covered for any injury arising in the course of employment, regardless of who is to blame. An exception to the exclusive remedy exists for an employer’s intentional acts that are intended to cause harm to an employee. If, for example, an agent of the employer (a manager, for example) deliberately sabotages a piece of equipment knowing that it creates a hazard for employees, an injured employee can pursue direct litigation against the employer and the employee who caused the injury. Note that even if an employer has behaved irresponsibly, for example by requiring workers to use equipment that hasn’t been properly maintained, the most likely recourse remains workers’ compensation. For over 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. If you have been injured on the job, please reach out to us today for a free attorney consultation about your situation. Call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

Can Workers Sue Employers for Especially Dangerous Conditions at Work?

Some jobs are inherently dangerous. Firefighting, heavy construction, and police work are just a few examples of high-risk professions. Employers in these professions take steps to mitigate the dangers their employees face. Beyond the clear importance of protecting their valued employees from harm, employers also want to avoid the expense of an injured employee (in terms of lost time, insurance, disability accommodations, and so on) and the potential regulatory and media attention that can come from serious accidents. But at what point can employees sue employers for dangerous conditions at work? State and federal safety laws and regulations provide broad guidelines for workplace safety. Enforced by the federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administrations (OSHA), these rules cover most types of high-risk conditions at work. Specific rules address things like workplace air quality, use of ladders, design and use of heavy equipment, and electrical work. In addition to specific rules, state and federal laws also feature what is called the “general duty clause.” This clause requires employers to provide workplaces that are “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.” 29 U.S.C. § 654(a)(1), NRS 618.375(1). The primary means of addressing workplace safety concerns is to submit a complaint to the Nevada Department of Business and Industry. If the agency determines that a complaint has merit it will arrange for an inspection of the workplace. Findings from the inspection will be reported to the employer, which has a certain amount of time to resolve the dangerous conditions. If the employer fails to adequately address the problem the agency may take enforcement action against the employer to ensure that noncompliant conditions are resolved. It’s important to note that employees can’t sue to enforce OSHA rules on their own. Instead, workers who file OSHA complaints or who refuse to work in unreasonably dangerous conditions are protected against retaliation by their employers. If an employer fires an employee under such circumstances it may be liable in a lawsuit for wrongful termination. An employee considering these steps should consult with an attorney to craft a sound strategy. What about workers who are injured at work by unaddressed safety conditions? Even in these situations a worker’s ability to sue the employer may be limited. Workplace injuries are covered by Nevada’s workers’ compensation system, which has two critical features for this analysis. First, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning that the worker’s injuries are covered without consideration for who or what is responsible for the injury. Second, an employer that purchases workers’ compensation insurance ordinarily cannot be sued for personal injury unless the employer deliberately caused the injury or doesn’t carry enough insurance to cover the kinds of risks that its employees face. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped clients in the Las Vegas area with workplace injuries. If you are concerned about dangerous conditions at your job and you’d like to understand how your legal rights may be affected by taking action to resolve them, call us today for a free attorney consultation. We can be reached at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.

Protecting Hotel Workers from Harassment by Guests

Protecting Hotel Workers from Harassment by Guests
One of the key issues raised by hotel workers in the major strike earlier this year was the prevalence of sexual harassment by guests. The issue raised important questions about how hotels address bad behavior by guests, and the options for workers who feel abused by guests but unsupported by their employers. A worker who feels that they have been harassed by guests should bear a number of things in mind.
  • Take the high ground. A major challenge for hotel workers who face harassment is that they are often placed in a situation where they must choose whether to confront the harassment immediately or effectively accept it as part of the job. One hopes that a manager will respond appropriately to a guest behaving rudely, at a minimum by ensuring that the harassed employee is permitted to avoid the offending guest. But in the moment it is important for the worker to not react in a way that could give the guest ground to stand on. For example, it’s important not to threaten or hit a guest.
  • Do not remain in a dangerous situation. Taking the high ground doesn’t mean allowing yourself to be placed at risk. Where possible, avoid being alone with offensive guests.
  • Report the incident to management. Managers who do not take appropriate action in response to a dangerous situation at work are not fulfilling their obligation toward employees. Except in cases where the guest has committed a clearly illegal act—for example, groping or other unwanted physical advances—management probably has discretion to address the problem as it sees fit.
  • Consult with union resources or a private attorney if management doesn’t act appropriately. If a manager refuses to take any action to protect workers from guest harassment, consider reaching out to your union reps or consulting with an outside attorney to determine whether other steps can be taken to bring the issue to light in a way that protects your rights. This latter point is vital. Unscrupulous employers may attempt unlawful retaliation against an employee who brings these kinds of complaints. Even if the employer isn’t likely to retaliate, the worker’s argument can only benefit from a professional approach.
Whether the worker can sue a guest for sexual harassment will depend on a range of factors, including the extent to which the worker has waived such rights under a collective bargaining agreement or employment contract. An attorney can help you take stock of the facts and examine whether a civil suit for damages is appropriate.

GGRM represents clients in the Las Vegas area

The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has a long history of helping working people in Las Vegas protect their rights. We are happy to help someone who has been victimized by harassment work through their legal options. For a free attorney consultation about your case, please give us a call today at 702-388-4476. We can also be reached through our contacts page.

Are Nevada Employers Responsible for Providing Ergonomic Workplaces?

Are Nevada Employers Responsible for Providing Ergonomic Workplaces?
Working in an environment that is not ergonomically designed can lead to long-term health problems. Issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and strained muscles can take years to resolve and can require surgery. Nevada employers are not specifically mandated to provide ergonomic workplaces, but a combination of safety regulations and financial incentives gives them good reason to take ergonomics seriously.

OSHA and ergonomics in Nevada

The “general duty clause” of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and the equivalent state law requires employers to provide a workplace that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm” to employees. 29 U.S.C. §654, NRS 618.375. The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, which adjudicates disputes arising from enforcement of federal OSHA standards, has held that ergonomics problems can be a “recognized hazard.” Pepperidge Farm, Inc., 1997 OSHARC LEXIS 40 (No. 89-265, 1997). Because bad ergonomics can lead to enforcement actions by state and federal OSHA agencies, employers have good reason to adopt policies to encourage healthy practices, provide ergonomics evaluations, and upgrade work spaces to reduce the risk of repetitive motion injuries. The state has adopted an instructive set of guidelines to improve workplace ergonomics for its own employees.

The cost of ergonomics-related injuries

Besides concerns about OSHA compliance, employers also have good financial reasons to improve the ergonomics of their workplaces. In addition to potentially losing productivity due to injuries, an employer may also face other kinds of costs, including:
  • Higher workers’ compensation premiums. An employee who suffers an on-the-job injury that requires medical care is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. When workers make claims an employer’s insurance costs can go up.
  • Disability law compliance. When an employee’s work-related injuries lead to temporary or total disability, an employer becomes responsible for providing the employee with reasonable accommodations that account for the disability. This might include offering the employee light duty, or moving the employee to another role. In addition to being expensive, these changes can be disruptive to the workplace.
The law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez represents personal injury and workers’ compensation clients in the Las Vegas area. If you have suffered an injury at work that is ergonomics-related, our experienced attorneys are happy to help you understand your legal options. For a free attorney consultation, reach out to us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contacts page.

Implications of the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Act for Employers

Implications of the Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Act for Employers
Nevada’s Occupational Safety and Health Act (Nevada OSHA), NRS 618 et seq., is an important source of protections for workers in our state. To avoid serious legal consequences for noncompliance, Nevada employers need to understand how the law affects their obligations.

Relationship to federal OSHA

Nevada OSHA is a federally approved variant of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, 29 U.S.C. 15 et seq. The federal law was designed to create a uniform safety standard across the country, and as such it preempts state laws. However, states are allowed to adopt their own standards with federal approval, provided that the state rules are at least as strict as the federal mandate.

Features of Nevada OSHA

Nevada OSHA varies from the federal OSHA law in important ways. In addition to specific rules regarding especially dangerous activities, such as the use of cranes or explosives, or working with dangerous materials like asbestos, the Nevada law has a number of rules that most employers need to keep in mind.
  • Scope. Nevada OSHA applies to workplaces in the state in the private sector as well as state and local government employers, with exceptions for federal government employers, private sector employees at military facilities, and workers on Indian tribal lands, among others. NRS 618.095.
  • Safety programs. Nevada OSHA requires employers with 11 or more employees, or who manufacture explosives, to develop and implement a written workplace safety program. NAC 618,538, NAC 618.540, and NAC 618.542. Such programs are composed of policies, procedures, and practices designed to create safe and healthy working conditions. State regulations have specific requirements of what needs to be in a plan, such as who is responsible for implementing it, how the employer analyzes and responds to hazardous conditions, approaches to training, and accident procedures. The Division of Industrial Relations Safety Consultation and Training Section (SCATS) has prepared a useful guide for developing safety programs that comply with state standards.
  • Hazard communication. If an employee is exposed to toxic or harmful materials in amounts that exceed applicable standards, the employer is required to promptly notify the employee of the exposure and any corrective actions the employer is taking. NRS 618.380.
  • Special industry rules. Many state OSHA laws impose additional requirements on specific industries. Every employer needs to determine if special rules apply to them. An example in Nevada is a new set of requirements for safety training in the entertainment industry. The requirements, which will go into effect on January 1, 2018, will require certain entertainment employees and managers to undergo OSHA safety trainings of 10 or 30 hours, depending on their role.
  • Enforcement. Nevada OSHA is administered by the Nevada Department of Business and Industry.
GGRM has a long and distinguished record of helping workers recover compensation for injuries suffered on the job. Compliance with Nevada OSHA is an important part of avoid serious workplace accidents and their long-lasting consequences. We would be happy to talk with you about your OSHA questions. To speak with an attorney, give us a call at 702-388-4476 or get in touch with us through our website.