What Is A “Safe Working Environment” By Law?

State and federal laws require varying degrees of safety to be provided by employers. What is a “safe working environment” by law? In general, you already know the answer through intuition. Employers must implement various preventative measures to mitigate the chances of workplace injuries. Keep in mind, though, that “safety” is partially about an employee’s feelings as well. That’s why it’s illegal to harass or intimidate fellow employees at work. 

Employees have certain rights.

Employees should receive adequate training when required to use dangerous chemicals or machines to perform tasks. They have the right to receive this training in various languages to ensure comprehension. Employees also have the right to use machines that are maintained for safety. They have the right to Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to prevent contact with dangerous toxins or chemicals. 

When could those rights be violated in subtle or unseen ways? Take a look around your work station. You should find a fire extinguisher not too far away. There should be a list of dates on a tag on the fire extinguisher to ensure it functions properly. Busy employers sometimes skip routine checks.

Do you believe your employer is violating state or federal laws or OSHA standards? You have the right to request an inspection by an OSHA-certified individual. You have the right to speak to this individual. You have the right to report any injuries that occur in the workplace, and you can also view records of past injuries. You have the right to your own work-related medical records. 

Many employees fear retaliation for making reports or requesting additional information related to workplace safety, but they should keep in mind: retaliation is illegal. If your employer treats you differently because of these actions, then the employer or the employer’s company could open themselves to liability. 

Not sure if the appropriate measures have been taken in your workplace? You can contact OSHA at your earliest convenience.

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