Safe Working Conditions
Construction work can be tough—and dangerous. Because it’s so dangerous, your employer has the responsibility to keep you safe and the work site up to code. The responsibility for safety is always at a personal level; you should never knowingly put yourself in danger or endanger the lives of your coworkers. However, the responsibility for safety extends to the supervisors, administrators, and owners. Equipment that is in need of repair, habitual bad practice, rushing jobs, or not providing safety equipment like shoring are all safety violations. If you are concerned for your safety on a worksite, you don’t have to just follow orders. OSHA regulations may seem like a pain, but OSHA also provides protection to workers who may be in unsafe situations.
If you feel like a situation is unsafe, go first to your supervisor or HR director. OSHA states that employees have the right to bring up complaints without the fear of firing. Start at your first line of supervision, and then if it isn’t resolved, go a step higher. Hopefully, the situation is easily and quickly resolved.
After speaking to your company, and if the safety violation is not resolved, then you can go to OSHA. File a complaint with OSHA by going here. There you can request an inspection, and find information on your rights. You can also find more information in this brochure.
It may take some time for OSHA to intervene, but that doesn’t mean you have to continue working in an unsafe environment. The OSHA website states, “If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, we recommend that you bring the conditions to your employer's attention, if possible. You may file a complaint with OSHA concerning a hazardous working condition at any time. However, you should not leave the worksite merely because you have filed a complaint. If the condition clearly presents a risk of death or serious physical harm, there is not sufficient time for OSHA to inspect, and, where possible, you have brought the condition to the attention of your employer, you may have a legal right to refuse to work in a situation in which you would be exposed to the hazard.”
You may feel hesitant to file with OSHA, but you can request that OSHA not give your name to your employer. Also, if you feel like you are being punished for reporting safety violations, you have 30 days to report it to OSHA.
Even though your job can be dangerous, you can minimize the hazards by taking responsibility for your own safety. Safe habits and having the courage to speak up about unsafe conditions can preserve your life and the lives of your coworkers.