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A Quick Guide to Unsafe Working Conditions and Unsafe Workplace Claims

Both federal and state laws regard the provision of safe working conditions as one of the basic employee rights that all employers must fulfill. But sadly, not all employers implement or follow the recommended safety protocols, putting their workers at high risk of injuries. This is against the law and must be reported.

However, many employees do not know what qualifies as an unsafe workspace and how to report potentially hazardous working conditions to the authorities.

We’ve compiled this quick guide to help employees better understand their rights and protect themselves when exposed to working conditions that can put their safety and/or health at risk.

What are Unsafe Working Conditions?

Unsafe working conditions are just what the term implies. Any work setting or environment where the workers are exposed to health and safety risks either due to the lack of safety protocols and/or exposure to potentially hazardous elements qualifies as “unsafe” to work per the law. Here are some of the common examples of unsafe working conditions to give you a better idea:

  • Cluttered or slippery surfaces. They can cause slips and falls, which are one of the most common causes of workplace injuries.
  • Malfunctioning or poorly maintained equipment
  • Unprotected exposure to hazardous materials, such as harsh chemicals and biological waste. This cannot just cause immediate health issues but can also lead to diseases in the long run.
  • Unhygienic/contaminated workspace, putting employees at risk of various illnesses
  • Lack of/ malfunctioning/ or inadequate threat identification and warning system, such as a fire alarm

There can be several underlying reasons behind unsafe working conditions, and they may vary across various industries. However, one thing that’s prevalent across all sectors and is one of the most common causes behind making a workspace potentially unsafe to downright dangerous is the failure to do proper maintenance. It’s common for employers to overlook the need for regular upkeep and maintenance and ignore repair and cleaning, converting work areas into danger zones for their employees.

When Can You Make Unsafe Workplace Claims?

While several factors can create potentially dangerous situations at work, not all of them can be reported as legal violations. As per the law, only the conditions that pose “imminent danger” to employees, i.e., have a reasonable risk of causing immediate serious physical harm or death, are considered violations of the law. Here are a few examples of working conditions that are considered illegal and provide a solid ground for filing unsafe workplace claims:

  • Non-provision of PPE for jobs or tasks with known hazards. This may include safety glasses, gloves, earplugs, protective shoes, fire-rated clothing, harness, etc.
  • Unguarded machinery
  • Electrical hazards posed by improper wiring or lack of maintenance
  • Performing tasks in very confined spaces without any training or preparation

Responding to Dangerous Working Conditions

The law gives employees the right to demand their employers to provide safe working conditions, as per the industry regulations and legal requirements. And when a safe work environment is not provided, employees also have the right to report it.

How to Report Unsafe Working Conditions?

The first step to reporting unsafe working conditions should be to bring it to your employer’s notice. This is not a legal requirement, but it’s recommended.

Report it officially so it’s on record, and you can refer to it if you decide to report the violations to OSHA or other legal authorities if your employer ignores your complaints or refuses to address them.

If you fear negative consequences for reporting a complaint to your employer, you may skip this step and submit a complaint to OSHA directly; they are anonymous.

Filing a complaint for an unsafe work environment with OSHA is simple. You can do it the traditional way, i.e., by mail, online, or through a call to their regional office. You must provide as many details about the hazards you face at work to initiate a quick response. Most often than not, an OSHA complaint leads to a site visit and inspection by an official. If you do not fear negative repercussions, it’s best to meet the OSHA team when they visit your workspace, answer their questions, provide more details about the issues if needed, and assist in investigation however required.  You can talk to the investigation office in private if you want to.

An OSHA inspection ends with a closing conference in which the team share their findings with your employer. The officials will highlight the safety issues and legal violations and provide guidelines on rectifying them. In situations where the employer is found guilty of willfully ignoring the safety requirements, gross negligence, or violating the laws, they may get notice or be fined for them.

As the complainant, you can ask for a copy of the OSHA’s investigation report.

As mentioned earlier, safe working conditions are one of the basic employees’ rights, and you’re legally entitled to take measures to protect this right of yours, even if that requires involving OSHA. However, it’s often easier said than done. Employers do not always respond positively to complaints about work conditions, especially when they willfully ignore them. And this can put employers at risk of discrimination, negative behavior, or, at worst, wrongful termination. An experienced lawyer can help you handle the situation while maintaining anonymity.

Contact us at 1-800-870-8910 to talk to our workplace safety lawyers in Nevada for a free case evaluation and to file an unsafe workplace claim against your employer.

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