Legal Implications of Unsafe Workplaces: A Guide for Employers

It’s your duty as an employer to provide a safe working environment for your staff. Failure to do so may lead to unplanned accidents resulting in your staff’s permanent disability or fatalities. Thus, you must check and ensure all your equipment is in good condition, and if there are any damages to them, you conduct early repairs or replace them.

Workplace accident

Doing so is essential to saving your company from legal repercussions that may make you lose your business. So, if you’re an employer, read below for a guide on all the legal implications that may result from unsafe working conditions. But first, a quick overview of what constitutes a dangerous or unhealthy workplace:

Characteristics Of Unsafe Workplaces

To prevent your company from suffering from the consequences of an unsafe place, you ought to look out for characteristics such as:

  • Defective tools: Watch out for equipment used for a long time without regular servicing or repairs.
  • Lack of signs on safety hazards: Workers may be unaware that the place is dangerous.
  • Poorly connected machinery with loose cables running along areas with high foot traffic
  • Congestion at the workplace: The more staff and equipment you have, the bigger the workspace should be to prevent accidents.
  • Slippery floors
  • Improper lighting
  • Irregular maintenance of equipment
  • Lack of training on what accidents may happen in the workplace

Legal Consequences

Once you identify all the characteristics of an unsafe workplace, you must acquaint yourself with all the consequences you risk facing. Here are some of them:

Employees Can Sue The Company After Injury Or Death

If one of your staff sustains an injury within your premises, they may sue you, especially if they’ve suffered a permanent injury or died. For instance, if you’re setting up an apartment building, commercial property, or a three-family dwelling and hire a contractor, you have to pay for the injuries they sustain when working for you.

Please take note, as an employer, you take responsibility for several instances, as stipulated in Labor Law 240. Here’s a list of eligible activities for which the worker can sue you:

  • When they’re doing a building erection
  • If they’re repairing and cleaning
  • Pointing a building
  • Demolition
  • Erection of handers, blocks, pulleys, braces, hoists, ropes, ladders, slings, irons, stays, etc.
  • Painting
  • Repairing

Ideally, the worker must be involved directly in the listed construction activities, not conducting maintenance or design tasks. If they file a lawsuit against you, you may have to spend a lot of money on legal fees to represent yourself. And if you’re found guilty, you must pay hefty fines or serve a lengthy jail sentence.

Employees May Refuse To Work

Your workers may stop working if they believe their workplace is unsafe. The law protects them, and you can’t use their refusal as a basis for dismissal. This regulation is part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. In such a case, an expert will have to come and assess your company premises to ascertain the validity of the claims.

If verified and proven that the work surroundings can threaten the safety of your staff, they’ll be allowed to quit working without incurring any penalties for such a sudden move.

Your License Can Be Revoked

Government inspectors usually do their rounds to check whether the work environment is safe for anyone working in the building or those passing around, i.e., in high-risk working surroundings such as manufacturing or construction companies. If they come to your premises and realize it doesn’t meet standards, they may shut down your business for a short period or forever. These are some of the possible reasons why your license may be revoked:

  • You don’t have safety measures in places such as gears, gloves, or boots.
  • There are no indications you’ve trained your staff on possible threat issues.
  • You no longer meet the licensing criterion.
  • Someone sustains a preventable injury in your company.

What To Do To Avoid Legal Implications

After you know the possible legal repercussions you may face, below are measures you can put in place to protect yourself:

  • Provide training to the staff on health and safety: Conduct training regularly to remind them of all the safety and health measures they must undertake while working.
  • Provide protective clothing and equipment: Your company must purchase protective gear for every staff member, from helmets to hard hats, reflector jackets, boots, gloves, and masks.
  • Determine all the work safety health hazards: Look into all the equipment that may cause an accident and replace them accordingly.
  • Appoint a safety representative: You can have someone in your company whose sole purpose is to assess and ensure all the safety regulations are adhered to. They can also install necessary and visible signs to guide your employees around the building.

Conclusion

Unsafe workplaces can cause your company significant losses when you compensate your staff for accidents and injuries sustained while on your business premises. Understanding the possible legal repercussions helps you find effective ways to evade them, and that’s by elevating the safety standards of your workplace.

Look into all the characteristics of an unsafe workplace and see where to improve. Over time, your workspace will be safe, and you won’t face unnecessary lawsuits.

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