Reporting an unsafe workplace is everyone’s responsibility, whether it’s the supermarket floor or a construction site. Your first step is to report the situation or incident to your supervisor or employer; many employees feel better about taking this step if they have several other employees who agree with them, or are prepared to speak out. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, you may have to go through OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the government body responsible for workplace safety. They can be contacted by phone, email or in person and they try to respond as quickly as possible, depending on the nature of the complaint, and its severity. There are OSHA offices throughout the US.
However, many employees are understandably hesitant when reporting an unsafe workplace, for fear of reprisals by their employer. Of course, it’s illegal for any employer to punish or discriminate against an employee who makes a complaint; you may have signed something to that effect when you started working there. It’s estimated that around half of all workplace injuries aren’t reported, for fear of company action taken against the complainant. However, if you end up contacting OSHA, you can remain anonymous, although you actually have to request this when filing the original complaint. The more detail you have to support your claim when reporting an unsafe workplace, the more chance you have of OSHA taking the case and of getting a result. Photographs, documentation, eye witness accounts and anything else that can be useful to support your case should be submitted.
While most employers welcome constructive feedback and suggestions on workplace safety, and how to improve it, a small minority do take negative actions against an employer who filed a complaint. These actions can include demoting the employee or transferring them to a less desirable location or department, a pay cut, general harassment, withholding of benefits or even termination. And unfortunately, it can often be difficult to prove that any of these actions were taken as a direct reprisal against an employee who had the audacity to speak out. And retaliation is not only illegal, but it can have a negative effect on the person concerned, as well as on employee morale in general.
If you do experience retaliation by your employer, or your original complaint is ignored or just not taken seriously, you may need to consult a personal injury lawyer. Most lawyers offer a free consultation and that gives you a good chance to explain your case and for the lawyer to decide whether it’s worth taking on. Of course, if you have the expertise of an attorney, you have a much better chance of winning your case and making a real difference in your workplace. Most such cases are settled before they go to court, although you should work with an attorney who has courtroom experience, just in case it comes to that. And you should also work with an attorney who has experience in this specific area of the law.
More info can be found at https://qcare.org/reporting-unsafe-workplace/.