EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Every worker in the United States has the same rights to safe and healthful workplaces, with full payment wages earned under federal laws regardless of where the worker is from.
KTSM 9 News spoke with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the issues that laborers continue to confront, specifically the protections they have when they report health and safety issues at their workplace.
“These workers are often employed in agriculture, construction and the service industry,” said Mike Mabee, OSHA Whistleblower Protection Deputy Regional Administrator, “Many of them don’t speak English as their primary language and haven’t been made aware of their rights.”
Mabee said the vulnerable worker population has been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re talking about workers in grocery stores, delivery drivers, farmworkers, meat packers, first responders, sanitation workers and workers in the medical field,” he said. “They were there for us and we need to be there for them now.”
Federal laws entitle workers to be employed at safe workplaces and requires employers to maintain work environments free of safety hazards. Mabee said that every worker has the right to report hazards at their workplace without fear of retaliation.
Workers have the right to:
- Receive workplace safety and health training in a language they understand
- Work on safe machines
- Receive required safety equipment, such as gloves, a harness or a lifeline for falls
- Be protected against toxic chemicals
- Request an OSHA inspection and be able to speak with the inspector
- Report an injury or illness and be able to obtain copies of medical records
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
- Review results of tests taken to find workplace hazards
“On the whistleblower side, we’ve seen dramatic increases in the numbers of complaints that we’ve fielded since the pandemic began,” Mabee said. “And on the health and safety side, OSHA has also fielded a great number of complaints since the pandemic started related to health and safety issues in the workplace.”