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Preventing accidents: What can you do if you feel unsafe at work?

| Jun 5, 2019 | Workplace Accidents

In a recent post, we discussed how two large Maryland companies were not up to par in creating safe workplaces for their employees. That post also briefly discussed the increasing number of employees who suffer from workplace violence each year.

These are only a few of the variables that can add up to a serious workplace accident. And since many accidents are preventable, some employees might feel unsafe at work long before an accident even occurs.

So, what can Maryland employees do if they feel unsafe at work?

1. Request proper training measures

Most workplaces across Maryland provide comprehensive training that instructs employees on what to do in a dangerous situation. These could include informational packets from Human Resources or even regular fire drills. 

Regardless of the kind of training, it should meet the standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). These standards generally include:

  • Informing all employees of emergency safety plans
  • Posting warnings and plans visibly around the workplace
  • Properly advising employees on how to complete their job safely

If an employer does not meet these standards, they could face penalties for an OSHA violation. 

Employees who believe they did not receive adequate training to protect their safety can also request further training from Human Resources or their employer. 

2. Communicate with your employer

It may be the simplest piece of advice, but employees should also speak with their employers if they feel unsafe at work. They can report directly to their employer regarding:

  • Concerns of workplace violence in good faith
  • Hazards witnessed in the workplace
  • Incidents of workplace injuries as soon as possible

Reporting these potential dangers could prevent an accident before it happens. 

However, this is also where many employees run into problems. Unfortunately, many employers might not do anything about the potential hazards in the workplace.

3. Refuse to work

This concept was also briefly mentioned in a recent post, but it bears repeating—and explaining.

If an employer does not address dangers or hazards in the workplace, and an employee truly believes that they are not safe or at serious risk of an injury, then they can refuse to work. No employer can force an individual to work. However, refusing to work may run the risk of termination due to absenteeism.

If a worker strongly feels that a working condition is so dangerous that they must stop work, an individual may need legal counsel before they stay out of work. If the worker is a part of a collective bargaining agreement or union, they should seek the advice of their shop-steward or union representative. If the job has no union, a worker should seek legal advice prior to calling out of work due to the dangerous condition. 

Dealing with unsafe working conditions can be overwhelming. And it is difficult to make the best decision depending on a particular circumstance. However, it is safe to say that employees should prioritize their health and safety over their work.

  • AABA