Tag Archive for OSHA

Reporting OSHA and Safety Violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidelines for workplace safety that employers must follow for the sake of their workers’ well-being and the sound functioning of their workplace. OSHA standards act as a supplement to the common sense and conscientiousness that should guide safety protocols at all workplaces, and dictate proper gear choices, from full brim hard hats to high visibility vests, for specific industries. It is the right of all Americans to work in an environment that does not place them at undue risk. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives all employees and their representatives the right to report safety and OSHA violations.

Employees or their representatives who believe there is a substantial hazard in their workplace, or that their employer is not following OSHA safety standards, may file an official complaint and request and OSHA inspection of their workplace. For their own protection and in order to preserve their jobs, complainants have the right to request that their names not be revealed to their employers. For the purposes of filing a complaint, employee representatives may be any of the following: authorized representatives of collective bargaining organizations, such as unions; attorneys acting for employees; or any person acting in a representative capacity, from clergy to family members to nonprofit groups and organizations.

Before contacting OSHA to report the safety violation, the employee may wish to take intermediate steps to resolve the hazard. Initially, the employee may wish to report the issue verbally to the workplace’s supervisor or manager, or through any official workplace hazard reporting procedure that may exist. The employee may also raise the issue with the workplace health and safety representative. If such measures prove ineffective, employees may attempt to negotiate with management through union representatives. Workers may also contact local government organizations, such as Licensing & Inspection, to report workplace hazards.

In order to file a complaint with OSHA, a complainant should fill out an official OSHA complaint form from OSHA’s website. The complainant may submit the form online or download it and fax or mail it to the nearest OSHA regional or national office. Mailing addresses and telephone numbers for OSHA’s offices are available via the OSHA website. If a complainant believes that there is an emergency or that a safety violation is immediately life-threatening, the complainant should directly call the nearest OSHA office or 1-800-321-OSHA.

Workers do not have to know whether a specific OSHA standard has been violated when reporting a safety violation. It is enough that the complainant provide enough information for OSHA to determine that a hazard probably exists. At a minimum, the complainant must identify the workplace or company, the hazard, and the particular worksite or building where the hazard is located. In order to increase the likelihood of an onsite inspection, the complainant should include details including: number of employees working at the site and how many are exposed to the hazard; how workers are exposed to the hazard; what type of work is performed in unsafe conditions; what equipment is used and its condition; what materials or chemicals are used; how long employees work around the hazard; how long the condition has existed; whether anything has been done to correct the problem; whether anyone has thus far been harmed by the hazard; and whether there have been any “near-miss” incidents.

In order to ensure a safe and healthful workplace, OSHA provides workers with other rights in addition to requesting OSHA workplace inspections for safety violations. Workers may receive information and training about safety issues, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace. They may get copies of any results of tests OSHA performs to find hazards in the workplace. Additionally, they may review records of work-related injuries and illnesses and get copies of medical records. All resources, including OSHA complaint forms, are readily available in Spanish as well as English.

How to Prepare for Next Year’s Workplace Changes Now

There is no such thing as being too prepared. In today’s rapidly changing market, an effective employer should anticipate future workplace trends. Get a jump-start on the year ahead by preparing for these workplace changes you can expect to see in 2015.

Healthcare Reform

Starting in 2014, President Obama’s plan to ensure that all American have access to affordable healthcare will go into effect on a new front. Employers with 50 or more workers will be legally obligated to provide affordable health insurance for their employees. Experts disagree on exactly how the new policy will change American workplaces, and some economists predict that employers will limit hiring. The legislation will certainly impact those in high health-risk industries, where issues from work-induced hearing loss to suspension trauma are possible on a regular basis. However, small business owners who embrace the change can benefit; those who go ahead and buy insurance next year will be able to get a credit for up to 50 percent of their healthcare premium costs.

Upcoming Changes by OSHA

You can expect the following changes to be pending or enforced by OSHA, come 2015:

  • What qualifies as being a “catastrophe” has now become a single trip to the hospital; what’s more, OSHA must be made aware of the accident within 24 hours of the incident.
  • OSHA will continue its mission to lessen employee exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. To prepare for this, follow OSHA’s suggested steps in order to guarantee that your workplace is in accordance to present and future standards. Key actions include striving to find healthier alternatives to hazardous chemicals; educating staff on safety measures; and keeping necessary equipment up-to-date, including chemical resistant clothing and protective gloves.

The Mobile Workplace and Flex-work

With mobile technology and cloud computing continuing to develop in innovative ways, employees can now work anywhere. The idea of a set workplace is in the midst of change, and so, along with it, is the belief in a rigid work schedule. As technology-savvy millennials account for a greater percentage of the workforce, trends toward flexible hours and a work-out-of-the-office mentality will start to become the norm. Gallup reports that workers are actually more engaged when working from home. Prepare for these changes by enhancing your mobile technology resources, keeping cloud storage secure and up to date, and being open to fundamental changes in ideas about how we work.

Freelancing and Career Switching

Already, one third of all Americans are contractors, consultants or freelancers. Those numbers will continue to grow in 2014, reaching 40 percent by some estimates. Millennials don’t like to stay in one job forever: according to a recent study by the University of Georgetown, only one in ten workers aged 18 to 25 considers their current job part of their real career. This propensity to quickly move between jobs makes “contingent” work a desirable path for many young workers. Employers, still cautious about hiring in the still-recovering economy, will continue to turn the freelance trend to their advantage. You can save money by hiring freelancers, since you will not have to pay benefits, making it a potential loophole to the new Obamacare rules described above. Hiring contract workers is also a good way to keep a large company “small.” Additionally, many freelance workers have specialized skills — in technology, for instance — that may be usefully applied to important but temporary projects.

Globalization

It’s no secret that we’ve been living in a globalized economy for some time now, and individual workplaces will become more global with changes in the coming year. International collaboration, made all the more tangible through new technologies will fuel innovation at companies throughout the country. The key to success here will be for you to create a sense of unity in the work environment in spite of employees being located the world over. Establish a distinct identity and a particular culture in your company that will give workers a sense of solidarity and purpose.