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What Constitutes Unsafe Work Conditions?

  • Published: March 15, 2023

If you are dealing with a workplace illness or injury due to unsafe work conditions, you may be entitled to compensation. 

Even if you haven’t suffered with either of these but still feel that your work environment isn’t safe, you’ll want to notify your employer of the unsafe conditions or hazards. Then, if they fail to remedy the situation, you can notify and file a complaint with the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA). An experienced California employment lawyer can help you with this.

The Definition of Unsafe Work Conditions in California

Workers in California are protected under the Cal/OSHA Act of 1973 from unsafe work conditions. However, many employees don’t know how to protect their legal rights. OSHA defines unsafe work conditions as “a hazardous or dangerous workplace condition that keeps an employee from being able to do their work properly.”

Certain individuals accept that work can sometimes be dangerous. While certain jobs do come with inherent hazards, employers are responsible for ensuring their employees can perform the functions of their jobs safely. Over time, workers may become used to working under dangerous circumstances and not realize they regularly engage in hazardous workplace functions.

Some hazardous workplace examples include:

  • Using broken equipment
  • Toxic chemical exposure
  • A lack of proper training to operate machinery or use equipment
  • Not having safety gear

In such situations, workers are at risk of severe injuries or even death. Employees can better perform their jobs by having adequate safety measures in place. They can also trust that their employer is looking after their well-being.

The Cal/OSHA Act was implemented to protect almost everyone in the workplace, whether they’re supervisors and managers or hourly employees. But, Cal/OSHA doesn’t apply to all types of jobs. For instance, independent contractors and jobs that fall under the household domestic services classification aren’t generally covered by Cal/OSHA. If you’re not sure if you or your job is covered under Cal/OSHA provisions, check with Cal/OSHA or your employer.

Proving a Willful and Serious California Misconduct Claim 

It’s not a simple process proving a willful and serious misconduct claim. To do so, you’ll have to prove that your employer’s actions or failure to take action were:

  • Done with the employer knowing that severe injury would probably result
  • Intentionally harmful
  • Done with absolute, reckless disregard for the probability of negative consequences

Thoughtless, careless, or irresponsible actions aren’t enough to be considered willful and serious misconduct. There needs to be a clear violation of safety and health codes (like those Cal/OSHA sets) to be potentially qualified as willful and serious misconduct. Removing safety equipment intentionally and directing workers to continue working anyway may also qualify.

Cal/OSHA Complaints and Refusal to Work 

If you’re dealing with an unsafe working environment, you can refuse to work. You do have that right. Employees can refuse to work if there are certain unsafe conditions and situations present, including:

  • The employee has a good faith and reasonable belief that a specific hazard or condition places their health or life in substantial and unreasonable danger
  • The immediacy of the danger makes it unsafe for the employee to wait for a Cal/OSHA investigation
  • The employer isn’t able to or refuses to remedy the hazard
  • The employee doesn’t have a reasonable alternative to work refusal

Generally, before refusing to work, the worker must report the danger or hazard to the employer to provide the employer with time to remedy the problem. However, if the issue doesn’t present an imminent threat, the worker should file a written report and continue to work until the issue is remedied. But, if the danger does present an imminent and clear threat, the employee can make an immediate remedy request.

If your employer refuses or fails to remedy a problem, you can file a Cal/OSHA complaint. You’ll also want to speak with a skilled California workplace attorney before you file the complaint to ensure you have explored your options appropriately.

How to File a Complaint With Cal/OSHA 

When bringing a problem or complaint to your employer, be sure you let them know the whole extent of the issue and ensure that they’re addressing the whole issue.

There are times when employers are aware of hazardous conditions and haven’t, or aren’t willing, to address them. In such cases, you’ll want to file an official complaint with Cal/OSHA. You can request that Cal/OSHA not reveal your identity to the employer when you file the complaint. You can contact Cal/OSHA to file an official complaint at any one of its various district offices, or you can file by email, mail, phone, or fax. When you file a complaint, you’ll want to be prepared to provide essential information about the dangerous condition, which includes:

  • Your workplace’s phone number, name, and address
  • Your workplace manager’s name and title
  • A detailed description of the dangerous condition or hazard
  • Work tasks you perform near the danger or hazard
  • The number of workers at your workplace and the number who might be impacted by the dangerous condition
  • Any workers that have sustained injuries or are experiencing symptoms of illnesses that could have been potentially caused by the hazard
  • How long the danger has existed and if the employer has taken any type of action to address and remedy the hazard
  • The name and contact information of any worker bargaining unit at the worksite

Again, you don’t have to give your name and contact information if you don’t feel comfortable doing so. But, by doing so, you’ll enable Cal/OSHA to follow up with you to inform you of the investigation results. Also remember, along with filing a complaint, you can also refuse to work if you believe there’s an imminent and real danger or hazard that places you or other workers at potential harm.

Contact the Skilled California Workplace Attorneys at KCNS Law Group Today 

If not addressed, unsafe work conditions have severe ramifications. SeSeriousnjuries and even death can occur but can be prevented by following precautions. If you’ve sustained an injury or illness due to unsafe work conditions, it’s important to have an experienced CA workplace lawyer on your side to go over your case and get justice. 

At KCNS Law Group, our committed workplace lawyers are dedicated to providing a client-centered approach to address your unique needs. If you’re a victim of workplace negligence and unsafe working conditions, don’t hesitate to call us at (818) 937-9255 or fill out our contact form to schedule your free consultation today.

KCNS Law Group LLP

Our client-based approach is concentrated on our commitment to providing individual and strategic representation tailored to our client’s specific needs.

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