Ask any labor lawyer– safety in the workplace is no joke. Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from safety and health issues while at work. Workers also have the right to know about possible hazards and not be forced to perform work that they believe is harmful or dangerous.
Of course, there are potential safety issues in every workplace. According to top California employment lawyers, some safety issues are more of a danger than others. Some are more easily correctable than others. However, if you do notice a potential safety issue, the first thing you should do is inform your superior (supervisor or manager) of the issue. Some states require you to give written notice to the employer, while others will allow a verbal notice. If they are unable (or unwilling) to correct the issue, you should file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
How Did OSHA come about?
President Nixon established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on December 29, 1970. His signature on the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created a new branch of the Department of Labor. This new branch’s purpose and mission has always been to “assure the safety and health of America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.”
Gather your Evidence Before you Contact OSHA
Before you report OSHA, this employment lawyer suggests being absolutely sure you have all the information necessary to make a full report of the safety issue. You’ll need the business name, address (a district and corporate address as well, if they have one) and phone number. You will also need the name and title of your manager or superior. Finally, you’ll need a description of the type of business, as well as the type of work you perform for the business.
Next, you need to get an accurate description of the safety issue. Describe the safety issue in as much detail as you can. You’ll want to gather the following information:
- The specific location of the issue. It is important to be as specific as possible, especially in large work spaces.
- What tasks workers perform in an around the location. These tasks do not have to relate to the safety issue. However, if workers perform these tasks near the safety issue, the safety issue may harm them as well.
- The number of workers who may be exposed to or affected by the safety issue.
- Whether any workers have already suffered problems or injuries resulting in medical treatment.
- How long the safety issue has existed, and how long you believe the issue will continue to exist.
- Any references or witnesses who know about the safety issue, and their contact information. A brief statement from them is generally helpful as well.
Employment lawyers and other labor law attorneys agree that you should make sure to have everything documented first, before completing the form.
Completing the OSHA Complaint Form
In recent years, OSHA has made great strides to ensure that filing a complaint is as easy as possible for workers. Over the years, OSHA has adapted to new technology for a changing world. Today, you can go to the website of the California Division of OSHA (Cal-OSHA) to their online complaint form and complete all the necessary paperwork online. You can also call your local OSHA Area Office to discuss your safety issue or answer any questions you may have.
A Word About Retaliation
Every state has its own laws in regards to retaliation by an employer. However, they all are similar in that they prohibit actions that affect an employee’s hours or wages from adverse actions. Some of those actions a labor lawyer would consider retaliation include being fired, laid off, demoted, or disciplined, or by denying benefits, overtime, or even a promotion. In California, Labor Code sections 6310 and 6311 specifically allow workers to:
- File complaints about safety or health conditions or practices;
- Institute any proceeding related to their rights to safe and healthful working conditions or testifying in any such proceedings;
- Participate in an occupational health and safety committee; or
- Refuse to perform work where the worker believes that an occupational safety or health standard, or any safety order would be violated and the violation would create a real and apparent hazard to the employee or his or her co-workers.
If you believe your employer is retaliating against you due to a complaint you filed, a qualified labor attorney can help. Depending on the situation, the labor lawyer can help you file a retaliation complaint with the Labor Commissioner, also known as the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) or the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
For the Best Results, Get a Labor Lawyer to help
Safety hazards are never easy to tackle alone. The larger the organization, the more difficult it feels to file a safety complaint against them. This is especially true if your employer decides to retaliate against you. That’s why it’s always important to have the services of a qualified labor lawyer on your side. With the skilled help of an experienced California employment lawyer like the Law Offices of Cathe L. Caraway-Howard, you need not fear even the most threatening of situations. After all, when it’s not only your own health and safety on the line but that of others you know and care about, you need to fight to make sure no future employee suffers a similar fate.