If you’re like many people in Glendale, Los Angeles, and the surrounding communities, you’re familiar with unsafe working conditions. In fact, you may have even been subjected to unsafe conditions in your own workplace—but thanks to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (and under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act), your employer is required to minimize risk and provide a safe, healthful workplace.
Unsafe Working Conditions: What You Need to Know
Whether you work in a high-risk industry (like construction or mining) or one that’s not associated with as much risk, unsafe working conditions can be present in your workplace. Some high-risk industries also have specific safety requirements of their own, so if you think you’ve been put in danger, it’s a good idea to talk to a Glendale employment lawyer who can evaluate your case and help you determine your next steps.
It’s important that you know you’re allowed to make a good-faith complaint about unsafe working conditions. Your employer can’t harass you, discriminate against you, retaliate against you, or fire you for doing so—that’s against the law.
(If that has happened to you, you must generally report the event within six months of the date it happened. It may be a good idea to talk to an employment attorney now.)
Who Investigates Unsafe Working Conditions?
The state of California’s Cal/OSHA Enforcement Branch is responsible for investigating complaints of workplace hazards, reports of serious violations, and reports of accidents that result in serious injury or death.
Classification and Examples of Unsafe Working Conditions
Unsafe working conditions are a threat to everyone, and they can occur in any environment. They can often be classified as ergonomic hazards, chemical hazards, or biological hazards, although not all dangers in the workplace fall under those categories.
Ergonomic hazards are related to the way your job strains your body. Sometimes it’s the type of work you do, such as work that requires you to use repetitive or awkward motions, or to lift things frequently; other times, it has to do with your body positions and your work environment, such as bad lighting or an improperly adjusted workstation.
Chemical hazards are present any time you’re exposed to any chemical preparation in the workplace, whether it’s a solid, liquid, or gas. Chemicals can include cleaning products and solvents, vapors and fumes, and flammable materials. They can also include carbon monoxide, gasoline, and asbestos.
Biological hazards are those that come from working with people, plants, or animals. Blood and bodily fluids, bacteria and viruses, and even insect bites can be considered biological hazards. So can animal and bird droppings.
Examples of Unsafe Working Conditions
If any of the hazards listed above are present, you could be neck-deep in unsafe working conditions. However, if your employer has taken the right steps to protect you and other employees, the state and federal governments could consider the employer’s obligations to be met—that is, your employer has upheld its end of the bargain.
In many cases, though, unsafe work practices lead to unsafe working conditions. Some examples of unsafe working conditions include:
- Failing to balance materials properly
- Failing to train employees properly
- Failing to use or maintain personal protective equipment
- Failing to use or maintain safety devices
- Improper lifting
- Improperly using personal protective equipment
- Improperly using safety devices
- Mislabeling or failing to label chemicals
- Operating machinery at unsafe speeds
- Operating machinery in violation of safe workplace practices
- Overloading materials
- Removing or disabling guards and safety devices on equipment or machinery
- Repairing or adjusting machinery or equipment that’s moving, under pressure, or charged with electricity
- Smoking in unauthorized areas
- Standing under or working under suspended loads, scaffolds, open hatches, or shafts
- Using defective tools or equipment
- Using tools or equipment in unsafe ways (or in ways other than their intended purposes)
- Using tools, machinery, or equipment without the proper training or authority to use them
- Using unapproved tools
Have You Been Subjected to Unsafe Working Conditions?
If you discover unsafe working conditions, you may have the right to refuse to work until your employer fixes the issue or investigates and finds that there is no imminent danger. That’s only true if:
- You have a reasonable, good-faith belief that the condition poses an immediate and substantial risk of serious injury or death
- Your employer won’t fix the condition
- The danger is so immediate that you can’t report the condition to OSHA or Cal/OSHA
- You don’t have a reasonable alternative
You may also want to talk to a lawyer in Glendale who focuses on unsafe working conditions to find out what to do next.
Call us at 818-659-8324 or toll-free at 800-774-4163. We’ll evaluate your case and give you specific legal advice you can act on so you can begin to move forward again.