On August 9, 2021, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the death of a 64-year old man who perished in an industrial accident in Edgewood. Although no foul play is suspected in the accident, the case highlights the importance of workplace safety in Maryland. Across America, occupational safety is an urgent concern. With an average annual work injury rate of 7 million based on statistics from the National Safety Council, this figure is still expected to rise. Maryland recognizes that safety measures are vital in ensuring the wellbeing of its workers. Although total fatal work injuries went down to 78 in 2019 from 97 in 2018, the state still needs to do a lot of work to improve workplace safety.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Standard Compliance
Maryland is a ‘state plan’ state having been given the mandate by the federal OSHA to implement a state regulatory program. It has adopted OSHA’s safety and health standards as reference, but added conditions for confined spaces, hazard communication, and crane operators that are stricter than federal rules. Specifically, the Maryland State Plan has authority over all public and private workplaces except federal employees, private sector maritime activities, and military bases.
For example, if you are visiting a construction site and suffered from injuries, you can retain the services of a personal injury lawyer to file for compensation. It must be proven that negligence on the part of the company caused the accident. A worker who is hurt while performing their duties will be eligible for a workers’ compensation claim. Note that Maryland is a ‘contributory negligence jurisdiction.’ Hence, if a judge or jury finds that you are at fault even only at 1%, you will not be able to recover claims.
COVID-19 Workplace Law
Maryland, along with Virginia and New York, has enacted a COVID-19 workplace safety law or HB581, otherwise known as the Maryland Essential Workers’ Protections Act (EWPA). It took effect October 1, 2021, imposing certain workplace requirements on employers during a health emergency and will apply during the current pandemic, but only if there is a declared state of emergency in Maryland.
The law emphasizes safe working conditions to reduce transmission at the workplace. It also provides leave. Affected sectors include healthcare, emergency services, education, food and agriculture, energy, transportation and logistics, water and wastewater systems, and pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturers, to name some. Therefore, employers are required to provide safe working conditions, offer safety equipment at no cost to employees, follow safety standards protocols, allow public health emergency paid leave, and report all positive test results to the state’s Department of Health.
Maryland is doing its best to comply with federal and state workplace safety regulations. In the meantime, employees and employers are advise to take the necessary precautions to reduce accidents and injuries.