Is your workplace unsafe? Learn what action you can take
to protect yourself and your coworkers
Each year, thousands of employees suffer workplace injuries on the job. Many of these accidents happen because of unsafe working conditions that were foreseeable and preventable. A federal organization called Occupational Safety and Health Administration — more commonly referred to as OSHA — establishes guidelines for all industries and companies that are designed to eliminate obvious workplace dangers and hazards.
Unfortunately, employers don’t always comply with these regulations. Perhaps they’re trying to save money by cutting corners, or they don’t value the health and safety of their employees.
When employees encounter potentially dangerous situations, there is a set of proper procedures they should take to report the problem and prevent a future workplace accident. If you have any questions about how to report unsafe working conditions, continue reading this article or reach out to our knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyers.
Examples of unsafe working conditions
In any industry, there are many situations that could be considered unsafe working conditions. Some of the most common hazards include:
- Missing or malfunctioning warning systems
- Slippery, wet or obstructed pathways
- Inaccessible safety exits
- Malfunctioning equipment
- Lack of safety guards on machinery
- Lack of appropriate safety equipment
- Unsanitary conditions
- Lack of proper maintenance
- Improperly trained employees
How to report unsafe working conditions
Employees play an important role in ensuring that their work environment remains safe. If you notice that something poses a potential threat to you or your coworkers, it’s your obligation and duty to report the problem.
The first person you should report the hazard to is your supervisor, boss or employer. Unfortunately, some employers may not be willing to make a change, or they don’t take your report seriously.
If you belong to a union, next you should consider reporting the unsafe working condition to your union representative. Union reps often have more authority to force employers to comply with safety standards and correct the danger. Unions also protect employees from possible retaliation, such as being fired.
Lastly, you might need to report unsafe working conditions anonymously directly to OSHA. This option is especially preferred if you fear retaliation from your employer and you don’t have a union to represent you.
If necessary, contact your nearest OSHA office by phone or mail to determine if the circumstance falls under the administration’s regulations. In the state of Georgia, concerned employees may contact:
Atlanta East Area Office
Atlanta West Area Office
Savannah Area Office
You may also file a complaint online at the OSHA website.
When confronted with unsafe working conditions, employees have the right to refuse to perform the task involving the risk. If the situation poses a high risk for serious injury or possible death, the employee should quickly contact OSHA via phone.
What happens when you report unsafe working conditions?
Whether consulting with OSHA on the phone, mail or online, include as much pertinent information as possible. Explain the number of employees exposed to the potential danger. Provide details concerning the machinery, materials or chemicals that pose a threat. Include the number of employees who suffered illness or injury secondary to the condition. Report how long the condition existed and whether attempts at corrections have been made.
Upon reviewing the complaint, one or more OSHA representatives will perform an inspection of the facility. After completing the assessment, the inspectors will share their determinations with the employer. The report includes what corrections must be made and what fines may be incurred at that time.
The OSHA investigator may also return within a designated length of time to ensure that corrections have been made. The employee responsible for reporting the hazard has the option of acquiring a copy of the report and talking to the inspector concerning their evaluation.
Employer retaliation and filing a discrimination complaint
If an employee files a complaint with OSHA and suffers disciplinary action, demotion, job loss or other types of punishment, they may contact OSHA and report the situation online or by phone. However, the complaint must be filed within 1 month of the incident.
Georgia laws and OSHA regulations prohibit employers from retaliating against an employee for reporting violations. Employees who suffer repercussions when they report unsafe working conditions may be compensated for lost wages or loss of employment when taking the proper steps with the administration.
Legal recourse for an injury caused by unsafe working conditions
Sometimes, a workplace may be too dangerous to continue employment. In that event, a worker should consider contacting an attorney experienced in handling cases that concern labor laws and worker’s compensation. A qualified attorney will review your case for evidence of discrimination or harassment. The lawyer then guides the employee through the legal process and advises them whether or not filing a lawsuit is appropriate based on findings.
If you are hurt on the job due to unsafe working conditions, Georgia workers’ compensation law grants you the right to monetary compensation for lost wages, medical expenses and other benefits — to be paid by your employer or their workers’ compensation insurance company.
Don’t let your employer tell you when you can or can’t file a workers’ compensation claim. If you’ve suffered a work-related injury or illness, contact the Georgia workers’ compensation lawyers at Gerber & Holder Law for answers.