OSHA, part of the Department of Labor, is the government agency whose mission is to ensure workplace safety. They do this by enforcing their standards and providing training.
This past June, a worker at a Caterpillar foundry in Texas fell into a ceramic container of molten iron and was “immediately incinerated.” OSHA investigated the incident and determined that the foundry regularly exposed its employees to unprotected fall hazards. Workers routinely worked just a few feet away from large pots of super-heated iron. And Caterpillar had not installed guard rails or safety protections around the pots. The worker who fell in was, at the time, taking a sample of the molten metal, used to cast engine parts.
Federal regulations require that employers address fall hazards. Employers might cover the hazard or put guardrails around it. Or they might provide personal fall arrest systems to employees. Caterpillar failed to do this. So OSHA cited them for the violation and proposed a fine of $145,027.
Federal regulations are not limited to fall hazards. OSHA standards address a wide variety of hazards, including loud noises, electrical hazards, exposure to radiation and gases, and heat stroke. OSHA requires employers to address these hazards. This makes the workplace safer for employees.
Employees have the right to safety training and equipment, safe machinery, and protection from toxic chemicals. The OSHA Worker Rights and Protections website details these rights and more. It also explains when and how to file a confidential complaint about unsafe working conditions and how to request an OSHA inspection.
This OSHA News Release details the workplace safety investigation at the Caterpillar foundry.
OSHA's Frequently Asked Questions provides more information for employees about workplace safety.