New Jersey employers are required to follow state and federal employment laws, including statutes and regulations that govern workplace safety. Employers are required to take steps to mitigate unsafe working conditions. Many of the regulations are promulgated and enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Despite these rules, some employers violate the law and allow unsafe working conditions to continue. Here is what employees should know when they face hazards in the workplace from the employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler.
The OSHA is the federal agency that was created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) and is tasked with establishing and enforcing safety regulations under the law. This agency ensures that employees have safe work environments. The OSH Act and its regulations cover all postal employees, federal employees, and private-sector employees. State and local government employees in New Jersey are instead covered by the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) program, which is operated by the state.
What Qualifies as an Unsafe Working Condition?
An unsafe working condition is anything that places a person in danger of being injured while they are working on the premises and are either expected or authorized to be there. Dangerous conditions can keep workers from properly performing their duties and place their safety and health at risk. Employers must ensure the workplace is free from known hazards.
OSHA has issued safety guidelines and provides training to ensure that covered employers meet their obligations. If an employer violates OSHA’s standards and rules, it places their employees in danger of workplace injuries.
The following are common examples of unsafe conditions:
- Nonworking warning systems
- Lack of warning systems
- Broken floor tiles or slippery, hazardous surfaces
- Blocked exits
- Improperly maintained equipment
- Malfunctioning equipment
- Lack of safety guards
- Unsanitary conditions
- Presence of hazardous materials without appropriate safeguards
A major issue that can create an unsafe work environment is a lack of routine maintenance.
While some unsafe workplace environments don’t violate the law, those that cause an imminent danger of harm are generally considered unlawful even if they aren’t considered OSHA violations.
Some illegal and dangerous workplace conditions include the following:
- Not having personal protective equipment available for employees to protect them from known hazards involved with their jobs
- Lack of training and preparation before employees enter confined spaces
- Lack of machine guards that allow employees to contact moving parts
- Improper wiring and electrical hazards caused by poor maintenance
OSHA and Unsafe Working Conditions
The OSHA requires New Jersey employers to provide a safe, healthy workplace environment that is free from serious known hazards. This duty is called the general duty clause. Employers must follow safety guidelines to protect their employees from unsafe work conditions. These standards vary from industry to industry since working environments also vary.
The requirements are divided into four main categories, including the general industry, construction industry, maritime industry, and agricultural industry. The largest category of the four is the general industry. OSHA’s requirements include mandates for employers to provide and use safety harnesses for employees that must climb at heights or descend. They also require employers to provide PPE to employees who work around dangerous machinery and to have guards and lockout/ tag-out procedures to prevent workers from contacting dangerous machinery. Employers must thoroughly train employees about their safety procedures and the dangers in the workplace so that they can protect themselves.
What to Do About Unsafe Working Conditions
Employees have the right to work in safe environments. If there are unsafe conditions in your workplace, you have the right to report them to OSHA and your employer. If you think that something is unsafe in your workplace, you should report it to your supervisor and ask to perform other duties until your employer resolves the condition.
Your employer can be fined if it violates OSHA’s safety guidelines. If someone is seriously injured or killed because of a serious violation, OSHA might force your employer to close until the dangerous conditions are addressed.
When you file a complaint with OSHA, the agency will investigate. Properly reporting an unsafe working condition requires you to do the following things:
1. Report the Danger to Your Supervisor
While you are not required to report a dangerous condition to your supervisor before filing a complaint with OSHA, it is often the easiest and quickest way to resolve a dangerous workplace condition. In many cases, reporting a dangerous condition to a supervisor will result in immediate action by your employer to fix it. However, if your employer won’t do anything about it, you should file a complaint.
2. File Your Complaint
You can file a complaint with OSHA online, by mail, or by calling the office in your area. In your complaint, you will need to describe the dangerous condition you are worried about.
3. Participate in the Investigation
Your complaint will likely trigger OSHA to conduct an inspection. If you can, participate in the investigation so you can provide the inspector with specific details about your concerns. As the complainant, you can talk to the inspector privately.
4. Get a Copy of the Report
Once the inspection is finished, the inspector will explain the findings to your employer and will determine whether any violations have occurred. The inspector will tell the employer the steps it must take to fix the issues. You can ask for a copy of the inspector’s report.
Talk to Swartz Swidler
If you are concerned about unsafe conditions at your workplace, you should speak to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. We can help you report the issues and work to ensure they are corrected. Call us for a free consultation at (856) 685 7420.