The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) just released an update to their 1989 guidelines for Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs. The guidelines were created to encourage employers to create programs that prevent injuries and illnesses in the workplace. According to OSHA, the key principles are, “leadership from the top to send a message that safety and health is critical to the business operations; worker participation in finding solutions; and a systematic approach to find and fix hazards.”It is important to note that these guidelines do not create any type of legal obligations for employers and are simply meant to advise employers on ways to improve the health and safety of their businesses and employees.The guidelines are an important factor in helping to protect our workers from suffering avoidable injuries and illnesses due to hazards in the workplace. However, in order to do so, it is still up to the employer to implement and follow OSHA's recommendations.
Recently, the Tampa Bay Times published an article giving a real world perspective on the current status of Florida’s workers’ compensation system. The article highlights the large amount of misinformation on what the recent Florida Supreme Court decisions, in Castellanos v. Next Door Co., and Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, really mean for the injured worker and the system as a whole.
There has been a lot of talk about how the recent decisions are simply a win for attorneys and how the premiums will rise for the employers and go directly into the pockets of attorneys. However, as this article makes clear, the true effect of the Florida Supreme Court decisions is that the insurance companies cannot continue to intimidate and attack injured workers over workers’ compensation benefits with no fear of the consequences. Rather, the decisions make insurance companies accountable for their actions, including needlessly denying an injured workers’ $800 in medical care.
The most thought provoking statement from the article comes from one of the insurance industry's own experts, “The insurance industry's own expert witness testified before the justices that he has never heard of a case of an individual prevailing in court without being represented by an attorney.”
Thankfully, the Castellanos and Westphal decisions by Florida's Supreme Court help to ensure no injured workers in Florida will have to navigate the system on their own. The only question we are left with is whether Florida's legislature will uphold the rights of injured workers and allow these changes to stand.