Evaluating and Reporting Unsafe Working Conditions
An unsafe workplace environment occurs when a worker is exposed to physical conditions that pose a risk of injury while performing normal daily work duties.
For example, defective or broken machinery, exposed electrical wiring, direct exposure to hazardous chemicals, uneven or slippery floors, or lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) could create an unsafe working conditions for workers.
OSHA Guidelines on Dealing with Unsafe Working Conditions
Under both federal and Pennsylvania laws, an employer is required to provide a safe workplace. In the case of unsafe working conditions, a worker in PA can report the violation to their employer as well as to the office of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) at the state or federal level.
Briefly, here are the OSHA guidelines for dealing with unsafe workplace conditions in Pennsylvania:
What should you do if a safety hazard presents an imminent danger?
If the worker’s life and well-being is in imminent danger because of dangerous working conditions, the worker should report the matter to OSHA. The worker also holds the right to refuse to work in the following circumstances:
- The worker reasonably believes that a workplace condition poses substantial and immediate risk of serious bodily injury or death
- The employer refuses to fix or remove the dangerous condition
- The urgency of the situation does not leave enough time for the worker to report the condition to the local agencies or OSHA office
- The worker had no other reasonable alternative
Until the employer removes the danger and determines that no imminent danger is present, the worker can refuse to return to work.
What should you do when a safety hazard does not present an imminent danger?
If the unsafe workplace condition does not pose an imminent danger, the worker should inform the employer in writing about the issue. If the employer does not address the condition satisfactorily, the worker may file a complaint with OSHA in PA.
What if the Employer Retaliates against a Worker Complaint?
The laws in Pennsylvania as well as OSHA regulations prohibit employers from acting in retaliation against a worker that reports a workplace safety violation. In other words, the employer may not demote, decrease the worker’s pay, or fire them because they filed a complaint about dangerous working conditions.
What rights do workers have under OSHA?
All workers in Pennsylvania have a right to safe and healthy working conditions. Under OSHA, every worker is entitled to:
- Request the employer to fix any OSHA violation or hazard
- Request for an OSHA inspection of the workplace and its results
- Receive training on the safety and health standards the employer must follow
- Receive training on any hazardous materials they may be exposed to, and the steps to protect themselves
- Receive training on potential safety and health hazards specific to their workplace
- File a complaint against the employer’s retaliatory action
Workers cannot punished in any way or terminated for exercising their rights under OSHA. If this happens, speak to a PA workers’ compensation attorney right away.
When to contact an attorney?
Unsafe conditions at your workplace in Pennsylvania, and particularly imminent danger, are a serious matter. If you or someone you know are injured in any way, including due to unsafe working conditions at your workplace, you should contact an experienced PA workers’ compensation lawyer to guide you through the process and help get you the benefits you deserve.