01 Jul Unsafe Workplace: How to Report These Conditions?
Your Reporting Hierarchy System
If you find yourself in an unsafe working situation, notify your floor manager first. Some events may be sudden, such as toxic liquid spills, and these must be cleaned up at once. Notify everyone on the floor that there has been a spill and to stay away from it until it can be handled properly. Ideally, your workplace will have temporary physical barriers that can be set up around the spill, so no one steps into it while passing through.
Always put on personal protective equipment (PPE) before cleaning the spill, such as protective eye gear, suitable face masks for filtering out toxic materials/liquids, and protective foot gear. If there are protective suits available, wear those. If there is no available protective gear, professional chemical cleaners must be called in to immediately handle the spill instead.
There are dangerous events that occur in an insidious manner, perhaps unseen, such as asbestos, lead, halogenated flame retardants, chromate copper arsenic, and more. Many of these chemicals are found in paint, caulking, sealants, wiring, insulation, and more.
The toxic chemical effects on human bodies are not seen or felt for some time after initial exposure. When it is discovered, such as during a doctor’s visit, the results should be reported immediately, and a solution provided. Airborne toxic particles can accumulate in the lungs, the bloodstream, and nasal passages, and lodge themselves in a transformed state in the kidneys, liver, reproductive systems, and brain.
Visit your doctor once a year for a checkup to ensure hidden dangers are not occurring in your body. This is very important if you are working around toxic chemicals and materials, as contamination can occur without anyone seeing or hearing evidence of a hidden problem.
How to Protect Yourself when Making a Report
Always start with following the chain of command where you work when you need to report an unsafe workplace event. Know the personnel structure of the company you work for and who is responsible to accept such reports, starting with the person who oversees your work.
Never bypass the person you should directly report to. To do so, would incur a problem, not only for the manager left out of the loop who could, and should have had the chance to solve the problem first. Taking control away from a manager you report to, will reflect badly on you. A construction or manufacturing site might have the following personnel structure:
- You, the floor worker
- Your supervisor or department manager
- Managers to whom supervisors and department managers report
- Top-level management (owner, CEO, CFO, etc.)
Protect Yourself Beyond the Workplace
Even if an unsafe workplace event occurs and is immediately taken care of, you should always make a personal record of the toxic or unsafe event. State the date and time of day the event occurred, note who was a witness to the event, who you reported to, and how the problem was solved (or not). Here is one example of how to write an event report and what information you should include.
Take this another step forward by typing it at home on a sheet of paper using a computer software program. Print it out, then use a pen to sign your name. Fold it up to fit a #10 business envelope, seal it and add a wax seal or sticky decal to cover the tip of the “V” closure on the back. The last step is to put a postage stamp on the envelope and mail it to yourself.
When you receive your letter in the mail, do not open it. Just keep it safely filed somewhere in your home. Should you need to prove at any time that you had reported this event to a manager, you can present the envelope to a presiding judge and have them open the sealed letter in court. The post office time stamp on your letter’s postage stamp is essential to prove when you first reported the event to someone.
Taking Pictures or Videos of the Workplace Event
Another step you can take to back up your proof is to capture pictures (or videos) of the event using your smartphone or a regular DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera while using a time stamp. Most cameras and smartphones require you to go to your device’s menu, then to settings, and scroll down to activate the time stamp option. Refer to your device’s maker and model if you need to search on the internet for a copy of your manual. Here is one example of activating the time stamp on an android phone.
Not all smartphones work the same way. Look up your phone model on the internet to find out how to activate time stamps. However, most phone pictures are named numerically, with a time stamp included within that name. Do not remove this part if you are changing the picture’s name before copying photos off the phone.
Leave the original picture in the lineup of your photos on your device so that other photos surrounding your event photos show their dates as well, in a sequential dated timeline. This is the smart way to ensure the time stamp (name) remains valid.
If you are uncertain about what you should do if your workplace has become unsafe and nothing has changed after you (and other employees) have made reports contact an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney to consult about what you should do next. The next section presents the options you could take in reporting an unsafe workplace.
ADOSH and the Whistleblower Complaint
The Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) provides ways for you to report unsafe, life-threatening workplace situations. To do this anonymously so your employer does not know it was you making the report, you can go to the ADOSH Whistleblower web page to get all the information and forms you need. Here is the form to report a hazardous workplace. This web page also handles forms for those workers who feel discriminated against during the performance of their job.
If you are going to report anonymously, consult with an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney first so you know what you will encounter. You could sit with your attorney while you speak with someone first at ADOSH and get your attorney’s immediate feedback on what is said.
Arizona Injury Law Group offers experienced and Certified workers’ compensation lawyers and legal services for injured workers. Call for your free consultation! 602-346-9009.