Good, healthy work

Part of healthy living is to avoid workplace conditions, whether in an office or on a loading dock or ladder, that lead to or aggravate health problems.

And it is your legal right. Federal law requires employers to provide their employees with working conditions that are free of known dangers “that are causing or likely to cause” serious physical harm.

There’s both the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) and its state-by-state equivalents. City health codes also give you the right to a safe and healthy place to work.

By law, you can’t suffer or be penalized for pointing out or questioning conditions.

That means there’s not to be any form of retaliation or discrimination for caring enough about yourself to bring something up and pursue it if necessary. The Guild is here to help you use your rights and keep you healthy.

Among protected working conditions are:
• The quality and availability of air, water and sanitary facilities.
• The safety of machinery or equipment, including high-technology equipment or installations. This includes:
• The equipment itself
• The way you are assigned or expected to use it.
• Proper fit, maintenance and adjustment of equipment, work areas and work surfaces.

You also have the right to know about any significant hazardous substances in your work environment.

What to do if you see or experience a hazard

Immediate hazards should be brought to the attention of management. It’s in their interest to keep the workplace safe. Also let the Guild know about the condition. It may affect others, and it may be something we’ve heard about before and can help clarify or resolve. And it gives us all a trail of notices that have been given in case there is any resistance to correcting a hazard or unhealthy condition.

We can take the problem off your shoulders and even outside the labor-management area by calling in appropriate government agencies to inspect the situation. Your Guild contract’s grievance procedure protects you against any unjust or illegal consequences for seeing to your physical well-being. Should a government agency be involved, you generally have to right to remain anonymous in your complaint even though the Guild will attend to it on the behalf of all of us.

You do not have to perform unsafe work

The law allows you to refuse to perform unsafe work as long as it is hazardous enough that any reasonable person would think his/her health or safety would be in danger by doing the work. Bring the Guild in early in these situations to protect your interest.

First be sure you inform your supervisor about the unsafe condition, and give the company a chance to correct it. Notice is best given in writing if you still decide to refuse the work.

If you experience a work-related health setback

Worker’s Compensation and disability insurance programs can see to your livelihood, and the employer may have legal responsibility for some or all of your medical costs. Your on-the-job-injury medical bills are paid by your employer. To receive benefits, obtain a workers’ compensation claim form from your employer and ask for information about how to file it with your employer’s insurance company. The doctor who is treating you should bill your employer’s insurance company.

The laws make distinctions that may determine the specific outcome of each unique case, so it’s best not to act alone or make assumptions about results before researching the situation with the help of the Guild and specialists in the field.

Contact a Guild representative