What Can You Do about Unsafe Working Conditions


It can be extremely distressing to identify a workplace hazard and not be taken seriously when it’s your health that’s at risk. It might be that you’re characterized as a worrier, and your concerns are shrugged off, or that your concerns are taken on board verbally by your employer without any action happening. This can make you feel unsure about what your company’s obligations are to you, and scared that you won’t be listened to until it’s too late. The first thing you should do if you’re stuck in this situation is to find out exactly what obligations you and your employer both have regarding health and safety regulations.

Report the Hazard 

If you’re simply nervous talking to an authority figure, while it suggests your employer hasn’t created the best relationship with you, it’s still your responsibility to report the hazard that you’ve detected. Mention it verbally to your company, and try to gauge the response – they might commit to fixing the hazard as soon as they get the opportunity. However, if the response is unclear or negative, the next step is for you to report the risk to them in writing.

Report the Employer

If your written report of a workplace hazard is ignored, then your employer has breached legislation. Don’t be intimidated, and more importantly don’t continue to work in an environment that you know is unsafe, because it’s you who will have to live with any damaging consequences. Report the circumstances to OSHA – the Occupational Health and Safety Administration – and if your employer uses this as a reason to retaliate in any way, whether it’s a threat of being fired or a less severe retaliation, then they’ve seriously breached regulation, and you shouldn’t capitulate. OSHA has the power to force your employer to re-employ you, but also to force them to make up any lost wages.

If You’re Injured

If you are injured in your workplace, then you shouldn’t just accept it, even if you feel powerless over the situation. For example, find a workers comp attorney in Wisconsin if that’s where your occupational injury took place. If the employer has been negligent, or in any way at fault, then you could have a case for receiving compensation for medical expenses, disability costs, lost wages or vocational rehabilitation and retraining. Just as you shouldn’t put up with a hazard that you’re aware of, you shouldn’t put up with an employer who is negligent enough to allow harm to come to their employees.

Refuse to Work

There are some circumstances when the best and safest thing to do is to refuse to work. According to OSHA, you have the right to refuse to work if you genuinely believe there is an imminent hazard if the employer declined to fix the situation, if the immediacy of the danger doesn’t allow time to report to OSHA, or if there are no other reasonable alternatives available to you.


About Author

Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. CascadeBusNews.com • CBN@CascadeBusNews.com

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