The Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Act has long protected public employees from both safety and health hazards in the workplace. The program, among other things, enforces indoor air quality standards, develops standards for respiratory protection of first responders, as well as handles complaints on behalf of public employees for unsafe conditions in the workplace. Under this program, any public employee may file a complaint with the office of Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health for unsafe or unhealthy work conditions. These complaints are considered confidential when filed and can be done anonymously. Furthermore, no employer is allowed to retaliate against an employee who files such a claim.
To file a complaint for an unsafe condition requires a complaint to be filed with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The form is available at the New Jersey Department of Labor Workforce Development’s website under the office of Public Employee Safety who can be contacted by phone at (609) 292-7036. Complaint itself requires specific information as to the location of the hazard, the people in charge and the nature of the complaint. It also asks the type of work done, materials handled, and the person who files the complaint has the choice of revealing his name to the employer or not.
For health hazards, such as indoor air quality issues, the Public Employee may file a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Any public employee who has a complaint about air quality or other health hazards may file a written request for a free inspection or file a written complaint to the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services.
Because PEOSH has developed the standards for such things as air quality or respiratory protection, if called upon, the Department of Health and Senior Services can issue violations to an employer who violates these health regulations.
This protection does not extend merely to public work places but also to public schools, many of whom are aging and have postponed preventing maintenance for budget reasons.
More recently, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services issued new regulations for safe patient handling and violence protection in publicly owned hospitals and nursing homes.
In recent months, Governor Christie’s Administration has drastically cut the amount of money available to both the Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Health and Senior Services to perform their work. They have even gone to the drastic step of returning federal assistance as well as taking efforts to remove Public Employee Workplace Safety Regulations in the name of deregulation.
To public employees, this represents a threat to their health and safety. If you have questions regarding your rights and would like to speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, please feel free to contact me here in my firm’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office to set up a free consultation.