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Does your worksite contain safety hazards?

Despite the risks to employees and productivity, many workplaces contain safety hazards. Sometimes a safety hazard arises suddenly, while others may exist for days, weeks or months without an employer taking steps to remedy the issue.

If you observe a workplace safety hazard, it is important to understand your rights as an employee. In some circumstances, you may find that the danger posed by the hazard is very serious, and you need to leave the worksite immediately.

In other cases, you may not have the freedom to leave your post, but can still take steps to make sure that your employer is aware that the hazard exists and needs to be dealt with promptly.

If you suffer an injury because of a workplace safety hazard, you may have more options than you think to pursue fair compensation for your injury. In these instances, it is usually wise to enlist the guidance of an experienced attorney who can help you identify all your losses and protect your rights.

If your worksite contains a hazard, but it does not pose imminent danger

If the hazard on your worksite is serious, but does not pose the threat of fatal or serious injuries, it is wise to alert your employer to the hazard in writing.

Should your employer refuse to address the issue or simply neglect it, you can notify the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA) of the hazard. OSHA can then assess the matter and possibility discipline the employer.

As an employee, you are protected from retaliation by an employer if you choose to report a hazard. Any retaliatory actions by your employer in this instance are strictly illegal.

If your worksite contains a hazard that poses imminent danger

Let's assume you're at your worksite and you observe a hazard that poses an immediate threat to your safety, or to the safety of others around you. Under certain conditions, you may have the right to refuse to work until the hazard is addressed.

According to OSHA, these circumstances include:

  • A hazard exists that poses immediate threat of serious injury or death
  • The employer will not or has not yet addressed the hazard and removed the danger
  • The danger is so immediate that there is not time to alert OSHA and let them deal with it
  • There are no other reasonable options for the worker

Furthermore, workers can also refuse to return to work until the hazard is no longer actively dangerous.

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