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How Should I Report a Safety Concern at Work?

New Jersey Workers' Compensation Lawyers Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Assist Employees Who Have Been Hurt on the Job.

When recruiting and retaining employees, many businesses tout the idea of workers being part of a team working toward common goals. One of the most elemental and essential team-oriented goals in the workplace should be to keep one another safe. Emphasizing concerns for the health and safety of all employees is good for business and workers alike. Nevertheless, employees who are committed to doing their part can still run into problems reporting safety concerns.

Employees who become aware of a safety hazard or who witness a near-miss should have a comprehensive and effective way to see that management handles the matter in a timely and effective manner, but many companies offer no identifiable reporting procedure to use. 

This discussion reviews the steps workers should take in the reporting process followed by suggestions for employers to consider when implementing reporting policies, encouraging employee buy-in, as well as sharing information on the implementation of remedial measures to address the safety issues at hand.

What Steps Are Involved in Reporting On-the-Job Safety Concerns?

Workers with safety concerns should be able to work within their employer’s established reporting system to see that issues are properly addressed. However, that is not possible in all instances. If your company does not have a reporting procedure for safety concerns, it may help to follow the suggestions below:

Bring concerns to the attention of supervisors. It may be as simple as bringing up your concerns to your immediate supervisor, who may be able to set your mind at ease by pointing out how the established controls mitigate the danger at the heart of your concerns. If the explanation does not assuage your fears, you can take your concerns up with the company’s health and safety manager or someone higher on the chain of command.

File a written report. If you believe your concerns are not getting adequate attention, or you feel uncomfortable bringing them up in person, another option is to file a written report. The simple fact that the concerns are in writing may indicate that the safety issue is serious enough for the company to investigate.

Follow-up on corrective steps. In a perfect world, you would hear back from your employer about an investigation into your complaints or perhaps an outline as to the mitigation measures planned to address your concerns. However, it may take a push on your part to see the issue through.

Although some lower risk issues may not get top priority or be immediately addressed, a response as to your concerns is only fair. Your employer should show appreciation for your involvement in its goal to keep the workplace safe.

Seek support from an employee representative. If you are a member of a trade union, you may have a safety representative to go to with your concerns. Such individuals can provide advice on how to deal with the issue.

File a report with an oversight authority. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal body that handles reports of health and safety threats in the workplace. If your concerns are not getting the attention they deserve in your organization, OSHA can look into the situation to determine if it warrants their involvement or possible action against your employer.

OSHA sets health and safety standards for a multitude of industries and job roles. The administration also provides oversight functions and enforcement of workplace regulations.

Under the principle that all American workers have a right to a safe workplace, OSHA supports these entitlements by providing a mechanism for workers to report concerns for review and possible action. The administration can evaluate a worker’s report, investigate the claims, and force the employer to act.

Although a signed report may be more likely to result in a site inspection or other action, a report to OSHA allows workers to keep their involvement confidential, which can eliminate a frequent barrier to reporting issues of concern.

If the concern is deemed credible, OSHA has the authority to hold the employer to account, if they find evidence that the authority’s standards are not being met.

What Can an Employer Do to Encourage Workers to Help Ensure a Safe Workplace?

Employers that want to encourage workers to help keep their workplaces free of safety hazards should put the following measures in place:

Establish a reporting system. Just as employees should be trained to recognize threats to workplace safety, they should be empowered to report their concerns with confidence that the reporting and mitigation system will work.

When it comes to setting up a reporting system, employers should keep it simple and accessible. This can include making reporting forms that focus only on the relevant details available on paper as well as electronically, such as online forms submitted by email or by mobile app. 

Engage stakeholders. It is vital to keep workers informed and engaged in the process. They should be kept in the loop about how the system is working to address specific safety issues.

Workers should be made aware of the types of workplace issues targeted and addressed by safety procedures. This can be beneficial in encouraging a positive and collaborative view of the safety reporting and mitigation systems. It can help to take input from stakeholders at all levels and remain willing to adjust the approach to the needs of specific situations.

Opt for training over disciplinary action. Employers should refrain from punishing safety infractions as a means to send a message to their workers, as this can backfire. Although it is true that safety is a concern for all workers, reprimands or termination for safety infractions can discourage workers from viewing reporting procedures positively. Employers should instead focus on reinforcing proper safety training to address unsafe work practices.

New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC Assist Employees Who Have Been Hurt on the Job

If you were hurt at work, your employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurance should be able to help. These employee benefits are meant to pay for medical costs and lost wages caused by a work accident. The New Jersey Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC have experience helping clients obtain these benefits after suffering an injury at work. Call us at 856-751-7676 or contact us online for a free consultation. Our offices are in Mount Laurel, Cherry Hill, Trenton, and Vineland, New Jersey; and Trevose, Pennsylvania. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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