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How To Identify Unsafe Working Conditions

Nov 08, 2022

Both federal and Wyoming laws require employers to follow specific rules and regulations in the workplace to ensure worker safety and mitigate unsafe working conditions. Unfortunately, not all employers comply with standard safety procedures, and this violation often leads to injuries —or even deaths — in the workplace.

How To Identify Unsafe Working Conditions

When you learn to identify potential regulatory violations, you can protect yourself from unsafe working conditions. You should also know where and how to report dangerous working conditions you might encounter.

If you have sustained injuries due to unsafe working conditions, consider speaking to a compensation lawyer who can help you file a work injury lawsuit to secure the compensation you deserve. 

What Are Unsafe Working Conditions?

Unsafe working conditions are hazards that can compromise the safety or health of on-site employees. These safety threats can diminish productivity, damage equipment, and expose businesses to losses. But the effects of workplace hazards go beyond economics. Unsafe conditions may result in injuries or (worse) death in the workplace.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) affirms that private entities recorded almost 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2020. The BLS also reported 4,764 fatal work injuries in the same year, with the country averaging one fatality every 111 minutes.

These stats paint a grim picture and show that many families have suffered preventable deaths and mutilations in the workplace. Both employers and employees must keep the working environment safe. If an employee spots a hazard, they should alert their employer, who should promptly fix the safety threat to avert imminent danger.

Reporting unsafe work conditions is the best way to prevent severe injuries, or even fatalities, in the workplace. If an employer disregards hazardous working conditions, an employee can report these deficiencies and breaches to the relevant authorities, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency created by Congress that enforces specific workplace standards and laws to promote employees' safe and healthy working conditions. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 mandates employers to comply with work-related safety and health standards to guarantee a safe working environment for employees. They must maintain a workplace free of health and safety hazards, which carry the risk of illness, injury, or death. OSHA enforces this federal act and establishes safety standards for employers and employees.

To protect employees from workplace hazards, OSHA requires employers to abide by specific workplace safety standards, like:

  • Inspecting the workplace to ensure it conforms to OSHA standards
  • Providing a workplace free from recognized hazards
  • Providing safety training, if necessary
  • Ensuring employees have safe tools to perform their roles
  • Placing OSHA posters at prominent locations in the workplace 
  • Maintaining a record of injuries, exposure to hazardous materials, and deaths

Examples of Hazardous Working Conditions

Always look out for safety hazards that may jeopardize working conditions, even if you trust that your employer is doing everything they can to protect you and your colleagues. Furthermore, harmful working conditions may vary depending on the profession and industry. Still, certain situations may create unsafe workplace environments, regardless of the type of job.

Here are some examples of unsafe working conditions in the workplace:

1. Chemical Hazards

Exposure to chemical hazards and toxic substances in the workplace can lead to short- and long-term health effects, such as skin rashes, poisoning, and disorders of the liver, kidneys, and lungs. Some common chemical hazards are:

  • Heavy metals like lead, mercury, and cadmium
  • Pesticides
  • Paint
  • Solvents
  • Caustic substances
  • Acids

2. Ergonomic Hazards

Ergonomic hazards are risk factors that may wear down and cause bodily injury. These hazards strain the body and can harm the musculoskeletal system. Also, they aren't always obvious, making them difficult to detect. Ergonomic hazards include:

  • Poor posture
  • Constant vibration
  • Awkward movements, especially if they are repetitive
  • Poorly adjusted workstations
  • Frequent lifting
  • Contact stress

3. Unsafe Equipment

Providing adequate safety equipment for all workers is a significant requirement for creating a safe working environment. Naturally, the risk of death and workplace injuries increases when employees lack standard safety gear. Safety equipment may vary according to the tasks involved and the job's danger.

Some examples of safety equipment that may help reduce workplace injuries include:

  • Safety glasses and shoes
  • Hard hats
  • Respirators
  • Gloves
  • Earplugs or muffs
  • First aid kits

Employers should remove defective safety equipment from service to reduce liability exposure or improve safety ratings. They should also restrict access to unguarded machinery that may create safety hazards in the workplace. Such machinery may crush, entangle, or lacerate body parts.

4. Blocked Safety Exits

OSHA requires a workplace with at least two exit routes, but larger offices may need more. These routes must be accessible and unobstructed. No equipment or material should block an exit route. 

Emergencies can happen at any time. And barricading an exit route — even briefly — might endanger workers on-site. Employers should tidy up, create paths, light the way, train workers, and plan accordingly to prevent workplace injuries due to blocked safety exits.

5. Unsanitary Working Conditions

Unsanitary premises expose personnel to illness or mortal wounds. A dirty or wet office environment may invite pathogens. The air can become contaminated by animal droppings, spills, mold, dust, asbestos, bacteria, and viruses. These sanitation risks should be cleaned or removed for the safety of everyone in the workplace.

If you've sustained workplace injuries due to any of the above hazards and your accident claim has been denied for various reasons, contact a compensation lawyer immediately to understand your legal rights.

How To Report an Unsafe Work Environment

As staff, you have a right to a safe working environment. Should you encounter unsafe working conditions, inform your immediate supervisor. If they don't take concrete steps to correct the problem, escalate the complaint to their supervisor or the HR department. If nothing happens, you may report the incident to OSHA. 

Wyoming residents can file a workplace safety complaint with Wyoming OSHA and send it via fax or mail. Alternatively, you can visit the federal OSHA complaints page to report your concerns.

Equally important, you may be eligible for compensation if you suffer an injury, contract an illness, or lose a loved one due to an unsafe work environment. The Spence Law Firm handles workers' compensation claims and can help you get the compensation you deserve. We've helped clients with different types of workers' compensation cases, including securing a $5.35 million settlement for the family members of a worker who died due to severe burns while inspecting a boiler tank in Ohio.

Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation. We offer personalized and skilled legal assistance.

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