According to data released by the Economic Research division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, there were 12.4 million Americans employed within the manufacturing industry, as of March 2017. While manufacturing jobs are in steady decline overall in the United States, the sector continues to contribute over $2.2 trillion dollars per year to the gross domestic product (GDP).
The downward pressure on the domestic manufacturing industry is due in a large part, to competitive trade deficits with China. However, factories continue to evolve in the United States and provide some of the highest paying general labor jobs in the country. But with the lucrative hourly compensation, comes exposure to dangerous work environments, including electrical, welding, gas and oil and other workplace hazards.
What safety threats should employees be looking for daily, and what laws protect whistle-blowers within the workplace, when legitimate fire safety hazards exist? We will discuss cases of wrongful death in manufacturing environments, and how workers can educate themselves on fire and electrical safety threats.
Faulty Wiring and Other Electrical Workplace Hazards
Burn and electrocution injuries are more common in occupations within the construction industry, however manufacturing environments pose significant risks to workers. The saying that “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” is particularly true in industrial environments, but safety issues can take many forms, or even be hidden from plain sight.
Inappropriate storage or use of natural gas or propane can cause gas leaks, and result in a dangerous explosive or fire hazard. Workers should always be aware of their surroundings in a manufacturing facility, and report immediately to management or supervisors, if the scent of gas is present. Faulty wiring can emit a plastic or burning smell, that may indicate a short-circuit or reduction of the insulated coating around live wires, which can spark and ignite packaging, gas and oil spills or other accelerants, including cleaning supplies.
Mixing unlabeled chemicals can also start fires. Industrial workplace safety laws require that every chemical contain a worksheet, and clearly marked label that informs employees of the health risks, and methods of working with the chemical in a safe manner. Hazardous materials and chemical hazmat equipment, as well as MSDS compliant signs should always be present in any industrial setting.
For more information on the U.S. Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) and the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) visit the OSHA website for details on required employer safety standards.
Right of Refusal to Work in Unsafe Environments
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides legislation that governs the safety standards that employers must meet, in manufacturing environments. One of the biggest fears that impede employees from reporting safety hazards is concern about repercussions from the employer.
However, as an employee, you have the right to refuse to work within any environment that you have deemed unsafe, if your complaint has followed the appropriate four steps:
- An employee must have asked the employer, or provide proof in written notice or verbal witness, that the safety risk was identified, and that the employer failed to act.
- An employee refused to work in “good faith” which means he or she has significantly expressed concern about injury and/or danger to other workers because of the safety hazard.
- The risk or safety infraction poses a real danger of death or serious injury that a ‘reasonable person’ would concur with.
- The immediacy and urgency of the fire or electrical hazard required immediate response, and the urgency of the injury risk did not allow for correction through normal workplace safety inspection (OSHA) or other enforcement channels.
If an employee has reported a fire or electrical hazard, and followed the steps outline by the OSHA, he or she should remain on the job site for regular shift work, unless asked to leave by the employer. A workplace discrimination complaint can be made up to thirty (30) days after the incident, by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
How to Report a Suspected Safety Threat
According to Boca Raton wrongful death lawyers, documentation and a previous history of safety complaints against an employer can provide all the evidence required to launch litigation against the employer. Where loss of life, or long-term physical loss and disability is caused by negligence on behalf of the employer, workers have the right to seek damages and personal injury compensation.
The first step is to inform your employer using the correct channels, of the fire or electrical safety concern, in writing. Workers should retain a copy for evidence, if the employer does not move to address the safety issue. Refusal to work can be considered, following the OSHA guidelines provided.
Author Information: Cassandra Kennicot is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about medical negligence and personal injury laws. Writing is of utmost importance to her as doing so helps her educate people by spreading her knowledge.