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Unsafe Work Conditions & Injuries – What Should I Do If I See an Unsafe Hazard?

Posted on June 17, 2022

Employees have a right to work in a reasonably safe environment with standards in place to reduce the risks of injuries, illnesses, or deaths. If you see an unsafe hazard at work that is not an imminent danger, report it to your employer and ask for a remedy. Your employer should fix it in a timely manner, but follow up in writing to ensure there is documentation of your request. 

Right to Refuse Dangerous Work

When an unsafe work condition is life-threatening or presents a risk of severe injury at work, you may have the right to refuse to work due to the danger of being exposed to the hazard. To legally refuse dangerous work, the following conditions must apply: 

  • You asked your employer to fix the unsafe hazard, if possible, and your employer failed to do so; 
  • Your refusal to work was made in “good faith,” which means you genuinely believed you were in imminent danger if you continued working;
  • A reasonable person would agree that the unsafe hazard presented a real threat of severe injury or death;
  • There was not enough time to get the hazard corrected through the proper channels, for example, notifying the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) so they may inspect. 

When these conditions apply, tell your employer that you will not work until the hazard is resolved, ask to be assigned other work, and remain at the job until your employer orders you to leave. 

How to Notify Osha of an Unsafe Hazard at Work

To file a complaint with OSHA, you may do so online. However, if you are concerned about confidentiality, file your complaint from your home computer or mobile phone. For even better protection, use an incognito window or a VPN to add additional levels of protection.  Other options include: 

If you enforce your right to refuse dangerous work, immediately call your local OSHA office or the toll-free number (800)-321-OSHA.

What Happens if an Employer Retaliates Against a Complaint From a Worker?

All Pennsylvania workers have a right to safe and healthy working conditions. It is against Pennsylvania law and OSHA regulations for an employer to retaliate against workers who exercise their legal right to file a complaint about a workplace hazard. That includes reducing hours, decreasing wages, demoting, being transferred, terminating employment, or being retaliated against in any other manner. 

If you experience any form of retaliation that violates the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you can file a discrimination complaint within 30 days, either online or by contacting your local OSHA office. In most cases, workers can file a complaint with state and federal OSHA. A staff member from OSHA will contact you to discuss your complaint, ask questions, and will then investigate. Once they gather information from your employer and speak to witnesses, if necessary, they will take action if there is evidence of retaliation. For example, requiring that your job, earnings, position, or benefits be restored, and possibly a compensation award for any resulting damages (e.g., lost income, humiliation, emotional distress, etc.).

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