Many workplace accidents – and New York workers’ compensation claims – could be avoided if New York employers took effective steps to minimize hazards or unsafe conditions at the workplace. By law, they’re required to. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) demands that employers must maintain a workplace free of hazards that they know or should know about that are likely to cause serious injury or death.
Hazards or unsafe workplace conditions may include:
- unchecked toxic fumes
- electrical hazards (frayed cords, faulty wiring, etc.)
- exposure to extreme heat or cold
- constant exposure to loud noise without protection
- poor lighting
- broken equipment or tools
- failing to secure heavy or dangerous objects
- lack of barriers or other protection from dangerous equipment
- failure to train employees to use of dangerous equipment
- lack of necessary safety or protective gear
- unsanitary conditions
- poor housekeeping: spills or obstructions on the floor, haphazard placement of dangerous chemicals or flammable items, etc.
Unfortunately, some employers disregard these dangerous conditions, often prioritizing saving money over the health and well-being of their employees.
Employees do not have to tolerate an unsafe work environment.
If you believe your workplace is unsafe, there are certain steps you can take. First, OSHA recommends talking to your employer about the hazards. If conditions fail to improve, file a complaint with OSHA. This may be done confidentially: if you request it, OSHA will not reveal your name to your employer. Moreover, it is absolutely illegal for your employer to fire, demote, transfer or discriminate against you in any way for filing the report.
You can file the complaint in three ways:
- Online. Fill out the online form and it will be automatically directed to the appropriate office. Note that most online complains will be resolved with your employer over the telephone rather than through an onsite inspection. Written complaints signed by workers and submitted to a regional OSHA office (see below) are more likely to result in on-site inspections.
- Download. You may download the form in English or Spanish, complete it, and mail or fax it to the nearest OSHA regional office. You should include your name, address and phone number so OSHA can contact you for further information, if necessary. Your personal information will be kept confidential.
- Telephone. Call your local or regional OSHA office. (You can get the number by calling 1-800-321-OSHA). The OSHA staff can discuss your complaint and respond to questions.
After your complaint is filed, OSHA will contact your employer to discuss how to resolve the problem, or conduct an on-site inspection of the workplace. You have the right to:
- • attend the inspection
- • speak privately with the OSHA inspector
- • be a part of meeting with the inspector and your employer, both before and after the inspection
- • have the OSHA inspector speak confidentially with a number of employees during the course of the investigation, particularly when there is no union or employee representative
- • find out the results of the OSHA inspection.
If your employer is found in violation of OSHA standards, your employer will be issued a citation, requiring the employer to take corrective actions by a certain date. Employees may challenge the date of the deadline for corrective action, while employers may appeal the citation. If the employer is not issued a citation, you may request a review of OSHA’s decision.
Also remember that if you are being discriminated against by your employer for having filed a complaint, you have 30 days to file a discrimination complaint with OSHA starting from the date of the discrimination.
If you have any questions regarding an unsafe workplace or an injury or illness arising from an unsafe workplace, speak to an experienced Albany workers’ compensation lawyer. Contact Paul Giannetti today at (866) 868-2960 or contact me online.