How to Report Unsafe Working Conditions in PA
Munley Law’s Guide to Identifying and Reporting Dangerous Working Conditions
When most people hear the phrase “unsafe working conditions,” factories and operating large machinery come to mind. While it’s true that some industries are more high-risk than others, the reality is any workplace can be unsafe. For your own safety, you should know how to identify unsafe working conditions and how to report them to the appropriate authorities.
What is considered an ‘unsafe working condition’?
An unsafe working environment is an environment with hazards present that make it dangerous for you to carry out any of your job duties. The environment poses a threat to your health and safety and may interfere with you being able to do your job correctly. While some jobs are dangerous by nature, “unsafe working conditions” refer to circumstances outside of what is reasonable, normal, or acceptable by regulatory standards.
Examples of Unsafe Working Conditions
Excluding agriculture, the top industries in Lackawanna County are healthcare & social assistance, retail trade, manufacturing, and educational services. And the top industries in Luzerne County are health care & social assistance, transportation & warehousing, retail trade, and manufacturing.
While this list is not exhaustive, examples of unsafe working conditions in these and other industries:
- Not having appropriate or adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves, face shields, or gowns
- Missing or damaged safety guards on factory equipment
- Being asked to use equipment or machinery that you haven’t been trained on or aren’t licensed to operate
- Outdated or malfunctioning equipment
- Hazardous floor conditions: slippery floors, damaged flooring, stairways without proper safety railings
- Poor lighting that makes it difficult to carry out your job duties
- Ergonomic conditions that lead to repetitive movement injuries, like having to stoop or reach repeatedly
- Having a workstation that can’t be adjusted to your height or arm length
- Exposure to hazardous substances or vapors like carbon monoxide, lead, and asbestos
- Not being provided with equipment such as earplugs, harnesses, protective eyewear, and safety harnesses
When employees work in these types of conditions, they are at risk for work-related injuries and illnesses.
The Hazards of Unsafe Working Conditions
A work-related injury may be caused by a one-time event, such as a fall that leads to a broken bone. And in other cases, the injury or illness develops over time, like a workspace with poor ergonomics or exposure to chemicals. These are just some of the hazards of unsafe work conditions:
- Fractures, sprains, or traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Eye injuries, including loss of sight
- Chronic lung ailments
- Injury to appendages, including amputation
- Spinal cord injuries
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive motion injuries
- Neck and back strain
If your workplace is unsafe, you must report the issue as soon as possible.
How to Report Unsafe Working Conditions in Wilkes-Barre or Scranton
If you need to report an unsafe working environment, you have several options.
Speak Directly with Your Employer
Often, the quickest and easiest way for you to report a safety concern is to speak with your supervisor. If it’s practical, put the request in writing. The issue might have been simply overlooked and is not readily apparent to someone who isn’t doing your job duties. The best-case scenario is that your boss will take your concerns seriously and fix the situation in a timely and professional manner.
Speak with Your Company’s Headquarters or HR Representative
Larger businesses may have a formal complaint procedure in place. This may allow you to voice your concerns to the company’s headquarters. You may be able to report anonymously if you so choose. Depending on how your workplace is structured, you may also be able to get assistance from your union or Human Resources (HR) Department.
Report Your Concern to the Local Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Office
Not every employer is open to employee suggestions and may not take safety complaints seriously. And, smaller businesses may not have on-site HR staff. Employees can contact the Wilkes-Barre OSHA Office directly to report a dangerous working condition.
OSHA has guidelines for employee reports of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions. If you speak with OSHA, you do not have to know if a specific safety regulation is being violated. All safety concerns are worth noting. There is no concern “too small” to report to OSHA.
A report to OSHA will likely result in an in-person inspection. You can meet with the OSHA inspector privately, participate in the site visit if you wish, and receive a copy of the final report. You also have the option of having OSHA keep your identity private.
Can I be fired for reporting an unsafe work condition?
No. Your employer has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace. You cannot be discriminated against or retaliated against for reporting an unsafe work condition. That includes a demotion, a hostile work environment, or a pay cut.
What if the unsafe working conditions pose an imminent danger?
You have the right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions if there is an imminent threat to your health or safety, and:
- Your employer is unwilling or unable to immediately correct the issue.
- You don’t have enough time to contact OSHA.
Take photos of the issue, if you can, so that you can back up your claim. You should be willing to work if there are alternative, safe duties that you can perform.
If you report an imminent danger to OSHA, they must perform an inspection within 24 hours.
How Business Owners can Avoid OSHA Penalties and Citations
Business owners can take advantage of OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program, which is both free and confidential. And because these consultations are voluntary, they do not result in any penalties or citations. An OSHA on-site consultation is an effective way for supervisors to ensure that nothing is overlooked and employees have a safe work environment.
If you think that your boss would be receptive, you ask them to schedule an on-site consultation.
What You Need to Know About Workers’ Comp and Unsafe Working Conditions
Pennsylvania law requires most employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, some industries are exempt, including:
- Certain railroad workers, longshoremen, and federal employees who are covered under other workers’ comp laws
- Coverage is optional for domestic workers
- “Agricultural workers who work fewer than 30 days or earn less than $1,200 in a calendar year from one employer”
- Employees who requested and were granted an exemption due to their religious beliefs
- Employees who requested and were granted an exemption due to their executive status.
If your job or position isn’t exempt, your employer is required to provide workers’ comp insurance for the entire duration of your employment, starting on your first day.
Does workers’ comp cover unsafe working conditions injuries?
Yes. Workers’ comp covers any work-related injury or illness, including those caused by a dangerous work environment. Workers’ comp may also cover an existing injury or illness that worsened due to the employee carrying out their job duties.
However, what should happen and what actually does happen can be two different things. Some workers will receive pushback when trying to make a workers’ comp claim. Or, they may be denied benefits altogether.
How much is the average workers’ comp claim in Pennsylvania?
A fair workers’ comp payout covers:
- All current and future medical bills associated with the work-related injury or disease. This may include surgery, physical rehabilitation, chiropractic care, medication, and diagnostic tests.
- Lost wages when the employee must miss work during recovery.
- Lost wages if the employee can only work part-time or cannot return to the workforce at all.
If you are injured on the job or experience an occupational-related illness or disease due to an unsafe work condition, you should speak with an attorney. You must understand your legal rights.
Unsafe Working Conditions Workers’ Comp Lawyer in Scranton
All insurance companies, including workers’ comp, have one goal: to pay out as little as possible, as quickly as possible. That’s why you should speak with a workers’ comp lawyer if:
- You were hurt due to dangerous work conditions, including a one-time event like a slip-and-fall or after long-term exposure to dangerous substances
- You are being denied workers’ comp benefits
- There is a disagreement between your doctor and the workers’ comp insurance over your maximum medical improvement (MMI)
- The insurance company is trying to settle your case and the full extent of your injury or illness isn’t known yet
- Your employer is not cooperating with the claims process
You can also speak with a lawyer any time you have questions about your workers’ comp claim or the claims process.
Why choose Munley Law personal injury attorneys?
Not every personal injury law firm is equipped or willing to go to trial. Our attorneys have trial experience and are not intimidated by the thought of going to court. While many workers’ comp cases do settle outside of court, we will never do so if it’s not in your best interest. For some workers’ comp lawsuits, going to trial means the best possible outcome for you.
We also have the personnel, access to industry experts, and resources to handle the most complex workers’ comp cases. In fact, Munley Law frequently accepts attorney referrals. In other words, we are the law firm that other lawyers turn to when they need help pursuing a legal case.
When you hire us, you pay nothing upfront. Our firm is paid only if we successfully reach a settlement for you. That allows you to seek legal representation without incurring more bills.
The only way to know if you have a workers’ comp case is to meet with one of our attorneys. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.
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