HR and Workplace Safety: New Jersey
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
Author: John Sarno, Employer's Association of New Jersey
- Private sector employers in New Jersey are under the jurisdiction of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). See Federal OSHA.
- The New Jersey Public Employees' Occupational Safety and Health Act (NJOSH Act) provides for the development and enforcement of occupational safety standards for public employers throughout the state. The law applies to public employers and has incorporated most of the regulations under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. See NJOSH Act.
- The procedural requirements and protections under federal and state law are substantially similar, but the state law is administered and enforced by the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The Department provides free safety and health training programs to both private and public sector employers. See NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
- Employees have 180 days from the time that a violation occurs to bring a claim against the employer for violating the employee's right to tell the Department about a health or safety violation. See Discrimination and Retaliation Prohibited.
- Employees have two years from the discovery of an occupational illness to bring a lawsuit. See Statute of Limitations for Toxic Chemicals.
- Hotels are required to provide a panic device to each hotel employee assigned to work in a guest room without any other employees present. See Panic Buttons for Hotel Workers.
- New Jersey prohibits talking on a handheld cell phone or texting while driving. See Driving Policies.
New Jersey has not adopted a federally approved state plan regulating workplace safety and health. Therefore, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has jurisdiction over private sector employers and federal employees in the state.
The New Jersey Public Employees' Occupational Safety and Health Act (NJOSH Act) provides for the development and enforcement of occupational safety standards for public employers throughout the state.
It applies to public employers and has incorporated most of the regulation under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act.
Like its federal counterpart, the NJOSH Act creates a general duty for public employers to:
- Provide each employee with employment workplace and job that is free from recognized hazards that may cause serious injury, physical harm or death; and
- Comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under the Act.
Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (the Department) has the primary enforcement responsibility for the NJOSH Act.
This responsibility includes the right of immediate entry at reasonable hours and without advance notice into any public employer workplace to conduct health and safety investigations.
This inspection authority is considered "wall to wall" meaning that the inspection does not need to be limited to any alleged violation; rather the inspection authority can extend to any other area of the premises in which there may be reason to believe that a violation of any provision under the law exists.
Thus, an inspection that is initiated by an employee complaint can result in a premises-wide inspection without a search warrant.
New Jersey State Industrial Safety Committee. The NJ State Industrial Safety Committee gives trainings and promotes awareness of occupational safety and health topics.
The Occupational Safety and Health Training Unit. The Occupational Safety and Health Training Unit provides free safety and health training programs to both private and public sector employers.
Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting
New Jersey generally follows federal reporting and recordkeeping standards for private employers. A public employer may use NJOSH 300 Logs.
Federal OSHA requires certain employers to electronically submit to OSHA the injury and illness data recorded on Form 300A. A state may allow employers to use the federal OSHA data collection website or may provide its own website.
Non-Retaliation and the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA)
CEPA applies to all public and private employers. It prohibits retaliatory action against any employee who, among other things, notifies the Department of a health or safety violation, accompanies compliance officers on an inspection or provides information to compliance officers in connection with the inspection.
Statute of Limitations for Toxic Chemicals
When a toxic substance in the workplace leads to an employee contracting an illness, such as cancer, many years might have passed since the exposure occurred. In the state of New Jersey, people have two years to bring a suit for a personal injury, negligence, wrongful death or products liability and one year for an intentional tort.
After that time, the individual loses his or her right to sue. New Jersey uses what is known as the discovery rule when calculating the time an individual has to sue. This means that the time frame will begin when the illness is discovered or when it reasonably should have been discovered.
Panic Buttons for Hotel Workers
Under state law, a hotel employer is required to provide a panic device to each hotel employee assigned to work in a guest room without any other employees present. The panic device must be provided at no cost to the employee. +N.J. Stat. § 29:4-11.
Under this law, hotel is defined as any hotel, inn, boarding house, motel or other establishment whose proprietor offers and accepts payment for rooms, sleeping accommodations or board and lodging and retains the right of access to, and control of, the premises which are let, which contains at least 100 guest rooms.
Hotel employee or employee means any natural person who works full-time or part-time performing housekeeping or room service duties at a hotel for or under the direction of the hotel employer or any subcontractor of the hotel employer for wages or salary or remuneration of any type under a contract or subcontract of employment.
Hotel employer or employer means any person, including a corporate office or executive, who directly or indirectly or through an agent or any other person, including though the services of a temporary staffing agency, employs or exercises control over the wages, hours, or working conditions of any person employed in furtherance of the hotel's provision of lodging and other related services for the public.
A panic device is defined as two-way radio or other electronic device which is kept on an employee's person when the employee is in a guest room, and that permits an employee to communicate with or otherwise effectively summon immediate on-scene assistance from a security officer, manager or supervisor, or other appropriate hotel staff member.
An employee may use the panic device if the employee reasonably believes there is an ongoing crime, or immediate threat of assault or harassment, or other emergency in the employee's presence. The hotel employee may cease work and leave the immediate area of perceived danger or inappropriate conduct to await the arrival of assistance. No adverse action may be taken against the hotel employee for taking such action. Upon a hotel employee activating a panic device, an appropriate staff member of the hotel, manager or supervisor, or security officer must respond promptly to the location of the hotel employee.
Also, a hotel employer is required to:
- Keep a record of the accusations it receives that a guest has committed an act of violence, including sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other inappropriate conduct towards a hotel employee and maintain the name of the guest so accused on the list for a period of five years from the date of the incident;
- Report any incident involving alleged criminal conduct by a guest or other person to the appropriate law enforcement agency so that the law enforcement agency may make a determination as to whether to pursue criminal charges and cooperate with any investigation undertaken by the law enforcement agency; and
- Notify hotel employees who are assigned to housekeeping or room service duties of the room in which an alleged incident occurred of the presence and location of any guest named on the list and provide hotel employees, other than the hotel employee who activated the panic device the option of either servicing the guest room of that guest with a partner hotel employee or opting out of servicing the room for the duration of the guest's stay at the hotel. The hotel employee who activated the panic device must immediately be reassigned to a different work area away from the guest room of that guest for the duration of the guest's stay at the hotel.
If an accused guest is convicted of a crime in connection with an incident brought to the attention of the hotel employer by the pressing of a panic device or otherwise reported by a hotel employee, the hotel may decline to provide occupancy to the guest.
The hotel employer must develop and maintain a program, which may include written information, to educate hotel employees regarding the use of panic devices and their rights in the event the hotel employees activate their devices and to encourage hotel employees to activate such devices when appropriate.
The hotel employer must advise guests of the panic devices it provides to its employees either by:
- Requiring guests to acknowledge the policy as part of the hotel terms and conditions upon checking in to the hotel; or
- Placing signs on the interior side of guest room doors in a prominent location and in large font, detailing the panic device policy and the rights of hotel employees.
A hotel employer who does not provide a panic device to its employees or does not follow the protocols above upon a hotel employee reporting an incident would be subject to a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $ 5,000 for the first violation and $ 10,000 for each subsequent violation, collectible by the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development. +N.J. Stat. § 29:4-12.
These requirements do not apply if the terms of a collective bargaining agreement address the issuance of panic devices to hotel employees or otherwise address safety and reporting procedures for hotel employees working in guest rooms without any other employees present.
It is against the law for anyone to talk on a handheld cell phone or text while driving in the state of New Jersey.
Employers should make sure that any employee who drives as part of their job duty, such as a salesman or a truck driver, is aware of this and employers should in no way encourage or require drivers to perform such actions.
If the employer has a policy on safe driving, these practices should be explicitly banned in the policy.
Drug and Alcohol Testing as a Safety Measure
While there is no statute governing drug testing in NJ, courts generally hold that there needs to exist reasonable suspicion of use to justify testing. For further information on drug testing, see Employee Health: New Jersey.
Presumptively, this includes testing after a workplace accident.
Other Health and Safety Agencies for Specific Industries
Asbestos Control and Licensing Unit
This unit requires any asbestos abatement company to obtain proper licenses.
Safety Compliance Unit
This unit regulates both the mining industry and industries that uses explosives. It also issues licenses to crane operators.
There are no developments to report at this time. Continue to check XpertHR regularly for the latest information on this and other topics.