Back in 2014, Cal-OSHA issued one “serious” and four “general” citations against German Machined Products, an aerospace industry machining and assembly company located in Gardena, California. Those citations—for failing to properly guard hazardous machinery—resulted in fines of $11,875, although that amount was reduced on appeal to $6,050. Now a worker is dead and Cal-OSHA is investigating, with plans to interview workers, check equipment, and look at the company’s training and safety procedures.
The media reports that the Los Angeles County Fire Department was notified of a worker trapped inside a metal-cutting machine on Monday around 12:41 p.m. First responders arrived just minutes later, finding the worker, a man in his 60s, dead upon arrival. The name of the worker has yet to be released.
This latest worker death raises the question—what can you do if you are exposed to unsafe or unhealthy conditions on the job? According to OSHA, the first step is to bring the conditions to your employer’s attention, if that’s possible. Workers always have the right to file an OSHA complaint about hazardous working conditions. Nonetheless, this does not mean you should not leave the worksite; a complaint can take time to address, and it’s important to remove yourself from harm’s way.
According to OSHA, if the condition in question presents a clear risk of death or serious physical harm and there is not a sufficient amount of time for OSHA to make an inspection, you may have the right to legally refuse to work until the condition is corrected. Keep in mind that OSHA cannot enforce union contracts giving employees the right to refuse to work, however.
You are legally protected, notes OSHA, from refusing to do a task if the conditions below are true:
- You have asked the employer, where possible, to eliminate the dangerous condition and the employer failed to do so.
- The work refused was refused in good faith—you believed there was an imminent danger if you continued working.
- A reasonable person would have thought that there was a danger of death or threat of serious injury.
- There is insufficient time to go through traditional channels to get a correction of the hazard.
OSHA recommends taking the following steps if you believe there is an imminent threat to your safety or health while you are at work:
- Request that your employer fix the problem or give you other work to do until it is corrected.
- Notify the employer that you will not work until the hazard is corrected.
- Remain at the job site until the employer orders you to leave.
Under OSHA rules, your employer cannot retaliate against you for questioning the safety of your job site or the work that you do. If your employer does retaliate, you should contact OSHA right away.