Many work environments require workers to exercise care when performing their jobs. Some employees are exposed to dangers in the workplace on a daily basis.
Faulty equipment, caustic chemicals, wet floors, different sources of heat, and ergonomic hazards all present opportunities for being injured on the job. To ensure your safety, it is important that you know and understand the rights provided to you under laws administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”).
Employees are entitled to a safe workplace free of health and safety hazards. Good communication with your supervisor or manager is a key element of a safety culture. If you have concerns about your safety at work, you have the right to speak up about your concerns without fear of retaliation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) requires that you be trained in the language that you understand.
If you speak Spanish, Mandarin, Farsi, or a different language, training should be made available to you in the language that you understand best to ensure there is no miscommunication and so that you understand the training. Employers are also required to provide personal protective equipment (“PPE”) for their employees. The PPE that is required to perform a task will be specific to the nature of the work that you are required to do. For example, PPE includes hats, gloves, or respirators to prevent the inhalation of harmful gases. Employers are required to pay for the protective equipment when it is used to comply with OSHA standards. You have the right to request an OSHA inspection and speak to the inspector as well.
What Should You Do If There Is a Dangerous Situation at Work?
You should promptly tell your supervisor about any unsafe working conditions. If the unsafe condition persists for an unreasonable amount of time after you advise your supervisor, you have the legal right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions.
Your right to refuse to perform a task is protected if the following conditions are met:
- You have asked your employer to eliminate the danger, and the company has failed to do so;
- You believe an imminent danger exists and have refused to work in good faith;
- A reasonable person would conclude that the unsafe working condition(s) pose a genuine danger of death or serious injury;
- There isn’t enough time to get the hazard corrected through regular enforcement channels like requesting an OSHA inspection because of the urgency of the hazard.
When Injured on the Job
If you are injured at work, call a supervisor for help. If your supervisor is not available, get help from a coworker, and get medical assistance, or call 911. After you report an injury or illness, it is highly recommended that you get copies of your medical records. You also have the right to view copies of the workplace injury and illness log. This helps you protect yourself in case there are any discrepancies or miscommunications that might have taken place.
Filing a Complaint
You have the right to file an anonymous health and safety complaint and to request an OSHA inspection of your workplace if you believe there is a serious hazard or if you believe your employer is not complying with OSHA standards. You can have someone else file complaints on your behalf as well. They can be filed by authorized representative of a labor organization, attorney, person acting as a bona fide representative, spouses, family members, as well as many others. You can submit complaints to OSHA online, by fax/mail/email, by phone at 800-321-6742, or in person at your local OSHA office.
You also have the right to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA if you believe your employer retaliated against you for exercising your rights as an employee. You can submit whistleblower complaints online at https://www.osha.gov/whistleblower/WBComplaint.html. You can also submit a whistleblower complaint by fax/mail/email, by phone at 800-321-6742, or in person at your local OSHA office.
If you have questions or concerns about safety in your workplace, you can contact OSHA AT 1-800-321-6742. OSHA will not share your information with your employer, supervisor, or fellow employees. You can find further information about your rights under OSHA at https://www.osha.gov/workers/. There are two Colorado OSHA offices: one in Denver, and the other in Englewood.
You can find their addresses here: https://www.osha.gov/contactus/bystate/CO/areaoffice. If you have concerns about your safety at work or retaliation for filing an OSHA complaint, contact OSHA or consider retaining Whitcomb, Selinsky PC to represent you.