When we say that some work injuries are “preventable,” we mean that the accident could have been avoided if someone had acted responsibly and appropriately. While some accidents are the result of factors outside of anyone’s control, the truth is that a lot of the work injuries suffered by employees could have been prevented if:
- They received appropriate safety training.
- Their equipment had been inspected or maintained.
- They had been thoroughly trained on how to do their jobs.
- Appropriate safety gear had been provided.
- There were enough workers on staff to monitor potentially dangerous conditions.
- Employee background issues had been discovered during new-hire screening.
And these are only a few examples.
Ultimately, there are many laws and industry standards in place that are supposed to help prevent exactly these kinds of situations and the injuries that they cause. While you may not want to “point fingers,” it is important to realize that companies are responsible for adhering to these standards and providing a safe place to work. When an employer fails to do so, those who are hurt should be compensated for their medical bills, lost wages, pain, and future needs. It’s truly not about “pointing fingers” when safety violations are recognized—it’s about protected workers taking advantage of their rights and making sure that companies are held responsible for keeping their employees safe.
Are You Working Without the Equipment You Need?
Many workers rely on their employers to provide functional and appropriate safety equipment to help prevent work injuries, and the safety equipment and protective gear provided for use should be appropriate for the task and in good repair. What counts as safety equipment or protective gear largely depends on what you do for living, but it can make a big difference in your safety while you perform your daily job duties.
The expected safety standards vary by industry, but some examples of appropriate safety equipment might include:
- Protective eyewear for lab technicians
- Non-slip surface mats
- Protective gloves and footwear
- Hard hats for construction workers
- Reflective vests for street crews
- Hearing protection in noisy environments
- Respiratory protection from particles or chemicals in the air
- Safety harnesses for scaffolding workers
Personal protective equipment and safety gear make it possible for workers to perform otherwise dangerous jobs and avoid serious injuries. If you were injured because you did not have access to safety equipment or that equipment wasn’t properly maintained, then your employer may have been negligent in causing your injury.
Are You Working Without the Training You Need?
Safety training is crucial, and even long-time workers in any given industry need to undergo regular training on new tasks, new equipment, or new changes to old regulations. Old or new, this training is vital to make sure that workers know:
- How to perform duties safely
- How to react to dangerous situations
- How to use protective equipment effectively
In most cases, you should receive safety training that is relevant to your job duties. However, some companies ignore the need for training or hope to cut expenses by cutting training short—and many workers get hurt in preventable accidents as a result.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t be left guessing how to perform your work safely, and provided safety equipment can’t do any good if you don’t know how to use it. Especially in potentially dangerous careers, training is important to help workers avoid injury in already-risky environments. Employers who don’t offer training, rush through training, or don’t offer adequate training are essentially inviting preventable injuries into the workplace—and they should be held responsible for putting workers’ lives and health at risk.
Other Common Safety Issues at Work
There are many laws and safety standards employers must adhere to, depending on the industry, type of work, and place of work. For example, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as part of the United States Department of Labor. Its purpose is to assure safe and healthful working conditions for workers in America. OSHA sets safety standards and provides training, outreach, education, and assistance for both workers and employers. OSHA also assesses fines and penalties when employers violate its safety standards.
OSHA releases an annual report regarding the penalties it has assessed over the course of its fiscal year. Between October 1, 2014, and September 30, 2015, the top ten highest penalties were assessed for the violation of the following standards for workplace safety:
- Fall protection
- Hazard communication
- Respiratory protection
- Powered industrial trucks
- Electrical wiring methods
- Machine guarding
- General electrical requirements
From our experience, other common safety issues in the workplace might include:
- Improper chemical storage
- Structure collapses
- Slips and falls
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Defective tools or equipment
- Crane accidents or hoist malfunctions
- Machinery and equipment hazards
- Environmental injuries
- Explosions, fires, and electrocutions
Violations like these lead to injured workers. Anytime an employer violates a safety standard set by OSHA or other regulators or laws, the employer puts its employees at risk. Yet, employers frequently violate these and other safety standards. Why? Cost is a big factor. An employer can take short cuts that save time. Time saved reduces overhead costs for employee wages. Often, however, these shortcuts lead to safety procedures being ignored or sloppily followed.
Many workplaces can be dangerous, but a lot of risks can be avoided if employers pay attention to the condition of their worksites and equipment, follow the relevant laws and regulations, and make worker safety a priority. When an employer fails to maintain safe working conditions, and an employee gets hurt, the employer should take responsibility for that worker’s care and recovery and take steps to fix the unsafe conditions.
How Can I Report Safety Violations at Work?
Texas employers are responsible for providing their workers with a safe working environment. Yet, every year, workplace hazards lead to injuries, illnesses, and deaths. That is why the state combats the problem by making it simple and easy for employees to report suspected safety violations. The hotline is a bilingual, 24-hour, toll-free telephone line that allows Texas employees to report unsafe working conditions to the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation.
You can report your concerns to the Safety Violations Hotline by calling 1-800-452-9595 or by completing an online form. When submitting your concerns, you will need to provide the following information:
- Your employer’s name, address, city, zip code, and telephone number
- The name of the owner or responsible head of the organization
- A detailed description of the hazard
- Your name and contact information, but only if you’re comfortable doing so. Providing this information is optional, and you may choose to remain anonymous.
After a report is received, safety inspectors work with the employer and insurance carrier to investigate and correct the hazard. If a reporting employee provided contact information, the investigator notifies the employee of the hazard correction before the case is closed. This hotline is a valuable way for employees to take action to correct safety violations in the workplace.
What Can I Do If I’ve Already Been Hurt Because of an Employer’s Violation of Safety Regulations?
When a worker gets hurt due to the fault or failure of an employer, it’s not unusual for the company to take steps to cover up its negligence, blame the worker, or fight the payment of medical bills and other damages. While most workers may expect the company to take responsibility and compensate them fairly, they are often left struggling by employers who care more about the bottom line than worker safety. Unfortunately, it is often up to workers to prove that their employers were negligent and should be responsible for their medical bills, lost wages, long-term impairment, and pain and suffering related to their injuries. Proving that your employer was negligent essentially means proving that your employer in some way caused your injury by failing to take reasonable steps to assure your safety.
When a company refuses to do the right thing after a construction worker is hurt, workers have the option of seeking legal help with their injury claims. An experienced attorney can help workers protect their rights and hold companies responsible for violating those rights and causing accidents or injuries. An attorney can also help walk injured workers through the process, protect their rights, and make sure they have what they need for the best chance at a successful outcome.
Our attorneys have helped many people in Texas—and around the world—who have suffered life-changing injuries while at work, and we would be happy to talk about your concerns and offer personalized answers, without cost or obligation. If you have questions or need help, we encourage you to reach out to VB Attorneys today at 1-877-724-7800.