Under California and federal laws, employers are required to provide safe and healthy working conditions for all employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets forth and enforces many of these rules to help reduce the risk of serious injuries to workers on the job. However, not all employers adhere to these safety protocols, which are in place to protect workers. This unsafe environment often leads to serious injuries or even fatalities in the workplace.
If you have suffered a personal injury due to unsafe working conditions, you may have a right to seek compensation for your damages and losses. It is important to know how to report hazardous working conditions and how to protect yourself from an unsafe workplace. Our work injury lawyers can help you better understand your legal rights and options.
Which Employees Are Covered Under OSHA?
OSHA is a governmental agency that was established under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act to ensure that all works have a safe and health workplace. The federal program covers all private sector and post office employees. Public sector employees may only be covered in states that have their own OSHA programs. In California, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) is an agency of the state government established by the California Occupational Safety & Health Act of 1973.
What Are Unsafe Working Conditions?
A workplace is said to be unsafe when the conditions are dangerous for anyone who is authorized to be there. These are conditions that prevent workers from doing their jobs in a safe manner and pose a risk to their health and safety. Employers are required to make sure that the work environment is free of all known dangers.
OSHA sets forth workplace safety standards and training to make sure employers meet this goal. An unsafe workplace can cause roof fall accidents, scaffolding accidents, warehouse injuries, electrocutions, and other serious injuries. When an employer fails to adhere to these standards, they are failing to provide a safe environment for their workers and essentially exposing them to various types of work injuries.
Here are a few examples of unsafe work conditions:
- The lack of a warning system one that malfunctions
- Flooring that is slippery or filled with debris posing a slip-trip-and-fall hazard
- Failure to have safety guards for machinery, which could lead to amputations
- Inadequate maintenance of equipment and machinery
- Unclean worksite, which could increase the risk of illnesses
- Presence of toxic materials such as asbestos in the workplace
- Flammable materials that are not properly stored
- Failure to have personal protective equipment such as fall safety devices for workers
- Electrical hazards due to improper wiring
One of the most common causes of a hazardous work environment is the lack of proper safety protocols and lack of maintenance. When dangerous
All conditions that could be reasonably expected to cause serious injury or death to workers qualify as contributors to an unsafe workplace.
Filing an Unsafe Workplace Complaint in California
Workers should try to resolve health and safety issues by reporting them to a manager, supervisor or union. However, if you fear retaliation or other repercussions, you can file a complaint anytime with the nearest Cal/OSHA Enforcement District Office, which will keep your identity and complaint confidential. Any employee can report unsafe or unhealthy conditions if they think those conditions exist in their workplace. It is not necessary that you know that exact Cal/OSHA standard or requirement related to the potential violation. Cal/OSHA will then conduct an investigation into the complaint.
You have the right to file a complaint with Cal/OSHA without fear of retaliation or discrimination. Some examples of retaliation are firing, demotion, transfer, layoff, losing opportunity for overtime or promotion, exclusion from normal overtime work, denial of benefits, etc.
Proving an Unsafe Work Injury Case in California
In order to successfully prove an unsafe work injury case in California, employees must show that their employers' actions or failure to act were intentionally harmful. They must also prove that the employer's actions were done with the knowledge that it would result in serious injury or death and was done with reckless disregard for the likely negative consequences. Under the law, actions that are merely thoughtless or careless are not enough to be considered "serious and willful misconduct."
It must be noted that when an employer clearly violates health and safety codes such as those set by OSHA or Cal/OSHA, that would qualify as serious and willful misconduct. Another example of such misconduct is when an employer intentionally removes safety equipment and instructs employees to continue working without safeguards or safety equipment in place.
Compensation for Unsafe Workplace Injuries in California
When an employee is injured in the workplace, he or she can seek workers' compensation benefits that typically cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages. Generally speaking, workers cannot sue their employers in court. While there is a limited exception to this when employers intentionally cause injury or harm to an employee, California does not have such an exception. However, if employees can successfully prove that they were injured due to their employers' "serious and willful misconduct," they can receive a 50% increase in their workers' compensation benefits.
An experienced Los Angeles work injury lawyer will also be able to advise whether the worker has a third-party claim against an individual or entity other than the employer. Such injury claims are worth much more than workers' compensation benefits and can help injured workers and their families seek damages such as lost future wages and pain and suffering.
The knowledgeable Los Angeles work injury lawyers at Greenberg and Ruby can help protect the rights of workers who have suffered injury or harm as a result of unsafe workplaces. We will put our experience and resources to work to help you secure maximum compensation for all your losses.