Need help reporting unsafe working conditions?
Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys explain how to report your employer’s willful misconduct.
On average, 14 workers are killed every day in this country, and another 2,500 are injured.
No matter where you work — whether it’s in an office or warehouse, or on a construction site or farm — it’s within your rights to demand a safe working environment. Workers sometimes ignore dangerous practices and unsafe conditions out of fear of being fired or harassed. However, staying silent doesn’t solve the problem — it just prolongs the danger.
Workers in Georgia have a right to demand a safe workplace, and to obtain compensation for workplace injuries — without fearing harassment or the possibility of losing their job. Employers are required to provide a safe work environment under state and federal laws. When an unsafe working condition poses a danger to employees and customers, that situation must be addressed as soon as possible.
If you’re concerned about unsafe working conditions, don’t be afraid to speak up. At Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, our workers’ compensation lawyers will protect your rights and ensure you get the full compensation you deserve in the event that unsafe conditions contributed to your workplace injury.
Don’t take your employer at their word if they say your workplace injury isn’t covered.
Contact us today for your free consultation.
What is OSHA?
“OSHA” stands for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which is the government organization tasked with keeping America’s workplaces safe.
OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor and serves as an outlet for reporting dangerous work practices and environments. The organization is also responsible for enforcing various statutes and regulations pertaining to workplace safety.
The existence of OSHA came into being via federal statute in 1970, and it requires employers to maintain a workplace that meets certain safety and health standards so that there are fewer instances of work-related illness, injury or death. OSHA accomplishes this goal by providing outreach, assistance and training education, as well as conducting workplace inspections — more than 30,000 each year — many of which are prompted by worker complaints or injury reports.
Most common work safety violations (examples)
According to OSHA, the 10 most commonly cited work safety violations in 2018 were:
- Falls on construction sites
- Lack of warning signs or communication of hazardous chemicals produced in the workplace
- Unsafe scaffolding at construction sites
- Violations of respiratory protections; inadequate/unsafe respirator use
- Violations of lockout/tagout procedures around electrical equipment
- Inappropriate use of ladders
- Unsafe use of industrial-based powered trucks and equipment, like a forklift or motorized hand truck
- Lack of training to prevent falls; fall protection training
- Lack of guards on machinery to protect workers from hazards
- Lack of proper eye and face protection
While this list highlights the most commonly reported examples of safety violations, hundreds of other safety regulations are violated every day across the country. Workers must always remain vigilant in reporting conditions that concern them.
Types of injuries covered by Georgia workers’ compensation claims
What to do if your workplace is unsafe
If you believe unsafe working conditions are putting you or your coworkers’ health and safety in jeopardy, you should immediately notify your employer. Most employers will go out of their way to correct any unsafe working conditions or address worker concerns about dangers in the workplace.
Employers know it’s better to fix the problem as quickly as possible rather than face an OSHA violation or have to file a workers’ compensation claim.
But if your employer fails to take swift and appropriate action to address the danger, then your next step is to file a complaint with OSHA. You can also call your union, if you’re involved in one. A union representative will be able to tell you how to negotiate with your employer to properly address health and safety violations, and they can help protect you from retaliation by your boss.
If you’re worried about your well-being and safety, you may also have the right to refuse to work under federal law. You have a right to refuse work if the following statements are true:
- There is a clear and present danger that a condition in the workplace poses a genuine threat to the health of a worker, specifically serious physical injury or death.
- The employer will not address and fix the reported dangerous condition.
- The timing or immediacy of the danger is such that there isn’t enough time to report the situation to OSHA.
- There was no other reasonable alternative presented to the worker.
Compensation for a workplace injury
Whether OSHA investigates a safety violation or not, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you’re hurt on the job or while performing work-related duties. Remember to notify your employer immediately following a workplace injury. A verbal exchange about the injury isn’t enough. You must file your workers’ comp claim as soon as possible — within a few days.
The forms to file your claim will most likely come from your employer, or you can reach out to your state’s workers’ compensation offices directly. While you won’t earn any monetary reward from OSHA for reporting on dangerous conditions, some states will pay a higher workers’ comp wage if the injury was sustained because of a certified OSHA safety violation.
Workers’ compensation rules vary depending on the state where you were hurt. For more information on workplace injuries and other frequently asked questions about Georgia workers’ compensation and disability benefits, visit our FAQs page.
When can you sue your employer for unsafe working conditions?
Under Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws, it’s generally not possible to sue your employer for a workplace accident. This is the trade-off of having workers’ compensation insurance.
To collect workers’ comp benefits, you don’t have to prove that your employer did anything wrong; and likewise, it doesn’t matter if you or a coworker were partially to blame for the accident. In exchange, your employer is protected from lawsuits.
There is, however, an exception to this rule.
Injured workers can sue their employer outside of workers’ comp if and when it’s established that the employer was “grossly negligent” and showed a total disregard for employee safety.
Workers’ compensation covers an injured worker’s medical bills and a portion of their lost wages. But if you’re able to bring a negligence lawsuit against your employer for unsafe working conditions, then you can seek compensation for additional damages such as:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of future income
- Loss of consortium or companionship (in cases of a work-related fatality)
- Replacement services
Courts have also been known to grant punitive damage awards to workers injured on the job when their employer’s negligence was particularly egregious and horrific.
Our record of winning accident cases in Georgia speaks for itself:
Why hire an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer
While the state of Georgia and our country as a whole has implemented policies and systems to improve conditions for workers through workers’ compensation laws and institutions like OSHA, workplace accidents still happen.
Navigating the intricacies of the law while trying to heal from your injury is a heavy burden to carry alone. Contact the experienced Atlanta workplace injury lawyers at Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys today so that we can help.