Having a safe and healthy workplace is high up on the list of requirements of most employees, although unfortunately the reality is that not all work sites are as safe as they should be. Insufficient scaffolding, a lack of hazard warning signs and inadequate protection against falling are the most common workplace hazards, although of course there are others. And while all employees are legally empowered to report an unsafe workplace, many are understandably reluctant to do so.
Your first step if you feel that your workplace isn’t safe is to talk to your employer; typically your HR representative or someone in a similar position. You can communicate anonymously, although as employers aren’t allowed to make reprisals against employees for this reason, it shouldn’t be necessary to do so. And of course, if you can prove that the workplace isn’t safe, or have other employees who agree with you, it can make the process easier, and produce positive changes more quickly.
If nothing is done by your employer to address your concerns, you may feel that reporting an unsafe workplace to OSHA is your next step. OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health administration, and it oversees safety in the workplace on behalf of the government. OSHA suggests that employees voice their concerns to their employer before contacting them; many employers just don’t realize their workplace isn’t safe and will strive to make the relevant changes. OSHA helps employers to make sure their workplace is safe and carries out regular and unscheduled inspections of work sites all over the US. Complying with OSHA and any ruling is mandatory. Reporting the workplace violation to your company’s head office is another option if applicable, as is contacting your state’s Department of Labor.
If you are contacting OSHA and reporting an unsafe workplace, there are several ways to do that. You can call the organization’s regional office to talk to someone, file your report online or mail or fax the relevant information to them. Of course, the more information you can include to substantiate your claim, the more chance there is of a positive outcome. Include any dates and times of specific incidents, eyewitness or company statements, photographs or anything else that’s relevant. It’s possible to report a workplace violation to OSHA anonymously, although you’ll specifically have to ask them to withhold your name. As to how long it will take to investigate your claim, it can take anywhere from several weeks to a few months to complete any investigation.
Of course, your employer isn’t legally allowed to retaliate against any employee who reports a workplace violation or safety issue, although the reality is that mot all employers see things that way. If your employer does retaliate or treats you unfairly, your next step is to file a discrimination claim against them. A good personal injury attorney can advise you on whether you have a case and can help you with the often complicated and time consuming entire process of filing such a claim.