If you are an employee with a safety violation complaint, you will normally need to file with OSHA to have the complaint investigated. OSHA handles a wide range of workplace safety issues and enforces federal regulations to that effect. They also cooperate with states under OSHA-approved state programs and so may be involved with violations of state-level safety violations.
Stop Unpaid Wages not only specializes in helping workers to retrieve their unpaid wages and benefits that employers may have illegally withheld, but we also handle all manner of cases dealing with other violations of workers rights - including when employers willfully or through negligence endanger employee's safety.
To learn more or to talk to an experienced attorney concerning an OSHA related complaint or concern, feel free to contact Stop Unpaid Wages today by calling 424-781-8411 anytime 24/7!
What Is OSHA?
OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) is that federal agency tasked with setting up workplace safety regulations and health regulations across numerous US industries. OSHA is also empowered to issue fines to employers who violate its regulations and to investigate businesses for compliance - plus to investigate specific complaints reported to it by workers or by lawyers representing them.
Also realize that those who violate OSHA standards can potentially face lawsuits on top of any OSHA fines or penalties. This is especially likely when employees suffer workplace injuries or illnesses as a result of such violations.
Fines can range from zero to over $100,000, and they can be waived in some cases if OSHA determines it's appropriate. Employers with small numbers of employees and very few, or no, previous violations may sometimes "get a pass." But even a warning from OSHA is a serious matter. And repeat or frequent violators are highly likely to get hit with high fines.
Workers’ Rights Under OSHA
Passed in 1970, the federal OSH Act, which established OSHA, includes not just a focus on fining violating businesses and passing new regulations - the real purpose is largely focused on protecting workers from unsafe and unhealthy conditions that could lead to their being needlessly injured.
And aside from the right to a reasonably safe work environment, OSHA also involves specific rules and rights of workers in regard to how the system works. For example:
- You have the right to receive training and info on OSHA standards and related workplace hazards to avoid and how to avoid them in "layman's terms."
- You are within your rights as a worker to request and review documentation concerning workplace injury or illness incidents.
- You have the right to make a formal complaint to OSHA under full confidentiality (to avoid risk of employer retaliation) and to ask OSHA to inspect your employer on a matter.
- You also have the right, though not the obligation, to tag along with OSHA inspectors after you've requested an investigation from them and to point out to them the alleged violations.
- Your fights include obtaining copies of all test results for tests done during the requested inspection, in regard to identifying workplace hazards.
- Once your employer knows it was you who reported on him/her, you have the right to retain your job, salary, and benefits. Any retaliation taken against you for reporting the issue is a further violation that itself is grounds for a lawsuit.
Employer-provided OSHA Training
One key element of workers' rights in regard to safety and health at work is employer-provided OSHA training programs. Your employer is legally required to establish and implement a full fledged anti-hazard educational program, and it has to be provided in written form. It can ALSO be given in verbal or video format, but the written cannot be omitted.
Employers are required to see that all containers with chemicals in them be labeled and in particular that hazardous chemicals be clearly labeled to give workers adequate warning. Training must also extend to information on the possible effects of certain chemicals on those working with them from day to day and how to best protect yourself.
All hazardous chemicals must be listed out and a predetermined chain of communication established showing how employees are to know about such hazards, even the ones that may exist in pipes or come up during duties that are not familiar and routine. Additionally, there are specific safety standards that must be followed on construction sites, in medical settings, and in confined spaces like work trenches. Training requirements are specific to your particular type of work and situation, and any serious or persistent violations can be grounds for a lawsuit and/or OSHA fine.
Requests for Information
Your employer does not have the right to keep you in the dark about OSHA regulations, job hazards, OSHA test results, or injured workers. You can request such information and your employer has to comply with your request. You can, for example, request to see chemical or radiation test results or a report over who was injured during a workplace incident and how.
Your employer is required to alert you to the existence of medical/exposure records concerning yourself when you begin to work for him, and then every year thereafter. And your employer must let you know where these records are kept and how to access them. If you or your representative request such records, your employer is required to comply with the request within 15 business days.
If chemical exposure exceeds OSHA limits or if noise levels are allowed to be harmful without proper precautions and warnings to potentially affected workers being given, or if any violations are found in the records, it can be evidence in a lawsuit. Also note that if an employer goes out of business, the records must be transferred to a "successor business" or you must be contacted and given opportunity to access all relevant records three months or more before the business closes down permanently.
Requests for Action
As an employee, you have the right to file a formal request with your employer for a health hazard or safety violation to be corrected. You can even make request for corrective action if the safety hazard is not specifically addressed by OSHA. It may, for example, violate some other state or federal law or may constitute an act of negligence even if it's not named as a specific violation anywhere.
Obviously, workers don't want to "stick their necks out" and risk being fired or retaliated against, but remember that you have legal protections against all forms of retaliation. Plus, consider that IF it's a truly serious issue, your own health and those of your coworkers could be at stake. Oftentimes, bravely requesting corrective action from your employer may be all that is needed to resolve the issue.
File an OSHA Complaint
If simply requesting records and speaking to your employer over a matter to ask for a correction does not get results in a reasonable amount of time - it may be time to contact a good lawyer. It may also be time to contact OSHA itself to file a formal complaint and/or request an inspection of the relevant employer and/or work station.
You may file OSHA complaints online, by phone, by fax, or in written form. We can help you find and understand the relevant forms and give you our advice on how to fill them out. You can specifically ask OSHA to keep your name secret instead of letting your employer know who filed the complaint.
It's often good to talk to an experienced OSHA lawyer first so you can be sure your complaint is of the sort that is likely to be accepted by OSHA and so you can understand what you should and should not say on the complaint forms. A lawyer can help you make your complaint more effective while better protecting you legally down the road.
Get Involved in The Inspection
If you wish, you can just make a complaint and wait for the OSHA inspectors to arrive and do their duty, and do nothing else. But often, it helps if either you or an authorized representative (a union rep, for example) accompanies the inspector(s) so as to point out the problem(s) in detail during the inspection. Your employer does not have the right to choose the authorized rep and is specifically barred from doing so as this could lead to a possible attempted cover-up.
Should there be no union or available union rep, then OSHA can instead have confidential one on one conversations with multiple employees knowledgeable of the relevant matters. Also, workers can inform the OSHA officer of violations, answer questions he or she asks, and give descriptions of accidents, injuries, or illnesses that have occurred in the past. Workers are allowed to tell the inspector if they believe that the conditions visible during the inspection are not the way it normally is - but it's just been cleaned up and made compliant so as to pass the inspection and avoid responsibility for the previous violation that was reported.
Request to See OSHA Inspection Results
You have a right to be informed of what the results were of the OSHA inspection. This holds whether or not OSHA decides to issue a citation against your employer. If no fine is given out, and you think it should have been, you can ask OSHA to review their decision.
OSHA will inform the employee rep (union rep) who accompanied the inspector of the results of the inspection. This will include what violations, if any, were detected, how serious they were and if any fines were applied, the results of any chemical or other tests, and what efforts your employer was found to have taken to control and minimize health and safety problems.
Also, if you employer is given a deadline to make all corrections and then files for extension of that deadline, you can file an appeal against such an extension if you think it's too long.
File a Discrimination Complaint
If for any reason or in any way you feel you have been discriminated against or retaliated against for filing an OSHA complaint, you can file a discrimination complaint within 30 days of the incident. That is, you can file with OSHA within that time, but you can file a regular discrimination lawsuit even afterwards.
If you refuse to work because you are faced with the possibility of serious injury or death due to unsafe working conditions, you can contact OSHA for an inspection; but if there isn't enough time for an inspection, you may have to stop working immediately. If you are punished or fired for doing so, you can file a discrimination lawsuit and/or OSHA complaint.
Dealing with Imminent vs Non-imminent Dangers
All employers are required to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe and healthy work environment for all of their employees. Many employers are under the jurisdiction of OSHA in regard to a large swathe of the total health & safety regulations that apply to them.
They are required to take efforts to keep workplaces free of hazards, actively look for hazards so as to be able to remove them or minimize them, and warn employees of hazards that can't be eliminated. They must also provide all necessary training and protective gear and equipment to maximally enhance worker safety.
But sometimes, an employer neglects to do those things OR a danger arises regardless of the employer's efforts. What then? It depends on if the danger is imminent or non-imminent.
- Imminent Dangers
If an unsafe work condition puts the very life of an employee in danger, and the threat is imminent, then the employee should refuse to work under such conditions and immediately report the problem to OSHA. So long as the employee reasonably believes in good faith that a work condition poses an imminent threat to his or her life or well being, it is legitimate to refuse to work until the employer investigates and, if necessary, corrects the alleged danger.
If the employer refuses to look into the matter, refuses to correct it, and then fires you for refusing to work - then you can appeal to OSHA for assistance. You don't have to just lose your job because you decided to truly "put safety first" and your employer did not.
- Non-imminent Dangers
Not all dangers are imminent in the sense that you would likely suffer immediate death or severe injury as a result of ignoring them and working anyway. But that does not mean they are not serious dangers just because they are "non-imminent."
A non-imminent danger may not mean you will stop working immediately, but you can still alert your employer and request the danger be corrected. If the danger is caused by a violation of OSHA standards of workplace safety & health, then for sure contact OSHA. But regardless, contact a good lawyer if you can't resolve the matter by simply complaining to your employer.
OSHA Regulations Are Wide-Ranging
Although not all safety problems at work will be covered under OSHA regulations, most of them are in most industries. If you have any question over which agency of the federal or state government to turn to for help over sub-standard safety conditions at work, we can help direct you in that regard.
OSHA has detailed regulations concerning biological agents, chemicals, and all manner of dangerous substances. These rules speak of how such materials must be stored, labeled, and used and of how employers are to equip and train workers to work with them as safely as possible.
OSHA also is heavily involved in the construction industry since construction work is one of the most dangerous job types. They enforce numerous regulations on safety equipment and practices to be followed during the construction of residential and commercial buildings all across California and the whole US.
OSHA has much to say about safety rules in the maritime industries. Whether it be commercial fishing, boating, water transport, or sea floor oil drilling. And OSHA's reach extends to emergency workers, medical facilities, and even to office workers in regard to ergonomics. Chances are, your industry is touched by OSHA as well.
What to Do If You Are Injured
If you are injured on the job despite OSHA's attempt to regulate your employer because your employer refused to follow the relevant regulations, then you can do more than just apply for a worker’s comp claim.
First of all, of course, you will seek immediate medical attention and get to where you're in a condition to handle the matter. Or, your spouse, loved one, or a coworker or friend may be able to handle the matter in the meantime.
The next step is to contact OSHA and/or a good OSHA lawyer who will be able to assist you by assessing your case. The initial case evaluation will let you know here you stand and what options you have going forward. You will want to file for workers compensation benefits, but you may also have grounds for a compensatory lawsuit. And you will want to make sure the dangerous conditions that led to your injury don't persist so as to endanger others and you again if you return later to the same job.
If you were not injured but you've noticed a dangerous work condition, it is your right and your duty to report it. First, you should try to resolve the matter in-house, but often employers refuse to listen or to respond by correcting the problem in a timely way. If this happens, you can file a complaint with OSHA and request a health & safety inspection.
If your employer fires you, lays you off, reduces your salary or benefits, demotes you, or takes any other employment action against you in retaliation for your reporting a problem to OSHA, you have the right to file a lawsuit. You have the right to compensation and to get your job back if you want it.
Why Choose Stop Unpaid Wages to Handle Your Case?
At Stop Unpaid Wages, we are your one stop shop for comprehensive workers’ rights legal assistance. We have been in the business of protecting you while you go about your business for many years now, and we have a long track record of success.
If you have a complaint, a question, an injury suit you want to pursue, or any other matter related to OSHA or to workplace safety and health in general, we are here to help. We are deeply knowledgeable and experienced in regard to pursuing and winning all manner of lawsuits in this practice area.
We also understand the inner workings of the OSHA bureaucracy, which can be quite complex and difficult for the uninitiated to navigate. We can assist you in filing a complaint, filing a lawsuit, or in a multitude of other similar actions. Don't trust a novice law firm or a group that defends workers rights as a mere add-on service - that's all we do, day in and day out. And we are good at it!
Contacting a Top-Tier OSHA Lawyer Near Me
Do you have a workplace safety violation to report in California? If you believe you have an OSHA worthy case and your safety as a worker has been compromised by illegal activities of your employer, do not hesitate to reach out to us for immediate help.
For a free initial consultation, contact Stop Unpaid Wages anytime 24/7/365 by calling 424-781-8411. Or, feel free to complete out contact form on our website and we can call or email you back to schedule your free consultation.