Congress passed safety standards in the workplace under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) to ensure that all employees have safe and healthy work conditions at all times. The law is different depending on the seriousness of the hazard in your workplace.

Are All Employees Covered by the OSH Act?

The OSH Act covers all employees, except employees that are self-employed and public employees in state and local governments. To prevent any injuries or illnesses in the workplace, it is important to comply with all the OSH Act requirements that your employer provides.

If you feel unsafe in your workplace or are injured at work, you should:

  • Speak to your employer or supervisor and give them notice of any hazards that concern you
  • Walk off the job if there is an imminent and substantial danger
  • File a complaint with your local Occupational Safety and Health Department
  • File a complaint with you local or state government agency

What Are Your Responsibilities as an Employer?

If you are an employer that is covered by the OSH Act, you must give your employees jobs that are free of dangerous hazards and poor working conditions that will cause illness or injury. Also, employers must:

  • Provide well-maintained work equipment and/or tools
  • Provide protective equipment, if needed
  • Provide on the job training that is necessary to do the job safer
  • Provide Medical examinations
  • Keep records of any business related accidents, injuries, illnesses and the causes
  • Ensure that all employees are in compliance with the rules and regulations of health and safety
  • Report all incidents of injuries, illnesses, and healthy hazards to the proper agency
  • Warn all employees that they are working with hazardous equipment or material

Hazards Posing an Imminent Danger

If your life is in imminent danger because of the hazard, you have the right to refuse to work. Call the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at 1-800-321-OSHA to report the hazard, or in the event of a dire emergency, call 911.

What Is an Imminent Danger?

  • You have the belief that your workplace poses a danger of death or serious physical injury.
  • Your employer refuses to correct the problem.
  • An OSHA inspection will not be an appropriate and/or speedy enough remedy to the danger.

Contact your state labor department to find out if your state allows other reasons for refusal to report to work.

What If You Are Not in Imminent Danger?

If there is no immediate danger, you should still report the situation to your supervisor. Document your report, i.e., make the report in writing and keep a copy, or make a note to yourself the time and date you made the request, the name of the person to whom you made it, and a summary of what was said by you and the other person. If for some reason you are afraid of your employer, you may make your report directly to OSHA. A complaint to OSHA may be made anonymously.

What If My Employer Does Not Comply with the OSH Act?

If nothing is done to remedy an OSH Act violation, or worse, your employer retaliates against you for complaining, you should contact OSHA or an employment lawyer. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you if you rightfully refuse to work due to OSHA violations.