How To Handle Unsafe Work Practices
Most employers and their employee handbooks profess a commitment to safety, but many only pay lip service to safety issues. When employees bring safety issues to their attention, they do nothing about it or do not put adequate solutions in place. Some employers effectively create an environment where employees no longer feel safe reporting unsafe work practices or the injuries that result from them.
This can lead to workers footing the bill for their own workers’ compensation cases out of fear of retaliation. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can make all the difference in cases like these and force organizations to take you seriously.
What Are Unsafe Work Practices?
In general, any work routine or guideline that puts the safety of workers at risk is an unsafe work practice. The specific qualifying factors vary from industry to industry. In some cases, unsafe work practices may simply be a part of the job, but there are usually safety protocols in place.
For instance, patrolling after dark is dangerous for security officers. However, this is part of the job requirement on the graveyard shift. Employers can seek to reduce the risks by requiring officers to patrol dangerous areas in groups and advising them against engaging with criminals.
Employers and employees can sometimes disagree on what counts as unsafe and whether those specific practices should remain as part of the job requirements. This is a gray area that leaves room for lobbying and litigation.
What Are Some Examples of Unsafe Work Practices?
While some unsafe work practices traverse a debatable area, most safety issues are fairly obvious. Here are some of the most common ones to keep in mind:
Inadequate or Improper Gear
Some fields require personal protective equipment to keep workers safe from the hazards that form part of the job. For instance, lab workers may need masks while handling chemicals that give off fumes. Similarly, construction workers may require special shoes, helmets and gloves.
Improper Site Management
Whether it is a construction site or a skyscraper in the city, employers and property managers have a responsibility to keep the premises safe. This can involve protocols on who cleans up spills and how to handle specific emergencies.
The more dangerous a particular field is, the greater the importance of providing training beyond prior experience and classroom learning. Some employers take this seriously, while others only do the bare minimum. This leaves workers at risk in oil fields, on construction sites and at lumberyards.
Signs help to keep people safe. However, large signs are not the only important ones. When people handle chemicals and devices, there should also be proper signage on the labels to tell them what is dangerous and how to handle these items safely.
Inadequate Emergency Response
If workers become injured on the job or face other threats, how soon first responders arrive on the scene makes a big difference. Employers need to provide medical equipment, communication devices, security officers, and/or medical personnel to ensure fast emergency response when necessary.
How Do I Report Unsafe Work Practices?
If you notice unsafe practices at work, it is a good idea to give your employer the opportunity to rectify the issue. However, if the employer fails to do so, there are other avenues open to you that you can explore. Some workers fear retaliation. This is possible, but there are legal protections in place against this. Here are some tips to consider:
Document the unsafe work practices that you notice before reporting them to the employer. Many employers shrug off unsafe practices until OSHA gets involved. Then, they resolve the issue temporarily. By documenting the unsafe practices, you have proof that this is an ongoing issue that may need more than a day’s worth of observation by inspectors to rectify.
Notify the Employer
The best way to report an incident to your employer is via email. This ensures that you have written proof of what you said to your employer and when. If your employer does not respond, consider following up with a particular manager or the human resources department. Note that it is not always in your best interest to reveal how much of the problem you documented.
If your employer does not resolve the issue in a reasonable amount of time or someone later becomes injured by the lack of response, consider reporting the issue to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Provide OSHA with all the evidence you have. The administration provides several avenues for you to report unsafe work practices:
- Visit the local OSHA office and make your complaint in person.
- Call your local office.
- File a complaint and submit your information via an online form.
- Send an email or fax.
- Send your document via snail mail.
Involve Your Labor Union
If you belong to a labor union, it may have its own guidelines regarding how to report unsafe practices. Speak to a representative of the union for more advice on how to move forward and to see what resources are available to you.
When going up against your employer, it is a good idea to seek legal counsel. Your attorney can guide you on how best to proceed from the very start. This is especially important if your employer then retaliates by demoting you or even terminating you.
How Do I Know When It’s Time To Hire an Attorney for My Unsafe Work Practices?
If you work for an employer that takes safety issues seriously and responds in a timely manner, you may have no need to involve an attorney. The last thing you want is to make an amicable relationship become combative because your employer feels threatened. However, if your employer refuses to act in a timely manner and does not put reasonable safety measures in place, an experienced attorney can help you assert your rights and navigate the situation.
Work With An Experienced Local Lawyer
Do you need the assistance of a workers’ compensation lawyer for your unsafe work practices case? Submit a request to our team so we can match you with one in your area. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!