BE EMPOWERED

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS

YOUR RIGHT TO BE SAFE AT WORK

* This information sheet is provided as a resource for general education and is not provided for the purpose of giving legal advice of any kind.

Your Right to Be Safe at Work

Employer and Employee Responsibilities

Safety and Health Enforcement Agencies

General Workplace Safety Requirements

Special Safety Rules for Certain Jobs

Bullying, Harassment, or Assault

If You Find a Health or Safety Issue at Work

Workers’ Compensation for Injury or Occupational Disease

What to Do if Immigraiton Comes to Your Workplace

Understand Your Rights

Employer and Employee Responsibilities

All workers have the right to a safe workplace, free from avoidable dangers that can cause injury or disease. Government agencies and labor unions work to enforce state and federal laws that help make your workplace safe.

Your employer must:  

  • Provide a safe and healthy workplace and follow all safety and health rules.
  • Begin and maintain an accident-prevention program. Both employers and workers must be involved in designing the program. The program should meet the particular needs of your workplace.
  • Ban alcohol and narcotics from the workplace.
  • Prevent workers from using tools and equipment that are not safe.
  • Control chemicals.
  • Protect workers from the dangers of “biological agents” such as animals or animal waste, body fluids, COVID-19, and mold or mildew.
  • Post the Job Safety and Health Law employer responsibility and worker rights notice (the OSHA poster).
  • Provide training about job health and safety.
  • Keep records of all job-related accidents. 

You must: 

  • Read the OSHA poster.
  • Follow your employer’s safety and health rules and wear or use all required gear and equipment.
  • Coordinate and cooperate with other workers in order to avoid accidents.
  • Report dangerous conditions to a supervisor or safety committee.
  • Report any dangerous condition that isn’t being fixed, in writing, to the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH)(see below). 
  • Report any job-related injuries or illnesses to your employer and promptly seek treatment.
  • Cooperate with government inspectors.

Safety Committees and Safety Meetings:

  • In Oregon, every employer must have safety meetings or a safety committee. If your employer has more than 10 people working at the same time and the same location, it must set up a workplace safety committee that includes employee representatives. Safety meetings must be held at least monthly.
  • Almost every state has some sort of requirement for safety meets and/or safety committees, see if your state is on the list.
  • In addition to this list, states not included may have mandatory safety committee requirements for certain industries, sectors or organizations using specific work processes.

Safety and Health Enforcement Agencies

A range of state and federal laws are aimed at protecting worker health and safety. The following agencies can help if there is a health or safety problem at your workplace:

In Oregon

Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI)

BOLI protects employment rights, advances employment opportunities, and ensures access to housing and public accommodations free from discrimination. As a worker, if you feel your rights have been violated at the workplace, this is the organization you’d reach out to first. (Fun fact: much of our website was built referencing this site!) Learn more about BOLI here.

Oregon Occupationsal Safety & Health (OROSHA)

OROSHA is dedicated to improving workplace safety and health in Oregon and committed to working with labor, business, and other government agencies to achieve that goal. OROSHA helps Employers develop a complete program to manage safety and health, including in areas of industrial hygiene, ergonomics, and workplace safety. OROSHA inspectors will look for unsafe machinery, electrical equipment, chemicals, gases or other hazards. Find more information on the OROSHA website.

Nationally

Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA is the federal government agency that creates workplace health and safety rules. It is a good place to turn if State laws do not cover your particular issue. Find your local OSHA office.

General Workplace Safety Requirements

First Aid Kits

All businesses with 3 ore more employees are required to have a first aid kit that is easily accessible to everyone at every worksite. 

Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the science studying how people sit, stand or interact with desks or machines. Sitting, standing or stooping for long periods of time can cause serious injury sometimes called “repetitive stress injuries.” 

Ergonomic interventions suggested by OSHA include:

  • Adjust the height of working surfaces to reduce long reaches and awkward postures.
  • Put work supplies and equipment within comfortable reach.
  • Provide the right tool handle for the worker.
  • Vary tasks for workers (e.g., employ job rotation).
  • Encourage short rest breaks.
  • Reduce the weight and size of items workers must lift.
  • Provide mechanical lifting equipment.
  • Replace telephone handsets with headsets anywhere they are used frequently.
  • Provide ergonomic chairs and stools.
  • Supply anti-fatigue floor mats.
  • Reduce or eliminate vibrations and sharp edges.

Hazardous Substances

The Worker Right-to-Know law states that your employer must tell you about dangerous chemicals used in your work area and train you in their proper use. When you start your job and when new hazards come into your workplace, your employer must offer detailed information about the chemicals. For information on Worker Right-to-Know laws, contact OROSHA or OSHA. 

Heat and Water – Working Outside

From June 1 until September 2 your employer must offer protection from heat stress. This includes providing drinking water and having someone who can give first aid on the work site if you get sick because of heat. 

Heat and Air Quality – Working Inside

Your employer must provide reasonable air quality that doesn’t make you sick. Restaurants and warehouses, for example, must be air-conditioned or ventilated to be safe (usually 90° F or cooler). Your employer must also ensure that chemicals released from new carpeting or other materials in the workplace won’t make you sick. If you notice something that could be toxic, report it to your employer and OROSHA.

Transportation

If your employer provides transportation to the job site, the vehicle must be safe, insured, and meet government standards. The number of people in a vehicle, often determined by how many seat belts are available, must be reasonable and safe. 

Excessive Overtime

Your employer may have to pay you extra for overtime hours depending on your industry (see: Your Right to be Paid). There is no legal limit to how much overtime your employer can make you work. But, if mandatory overtime is seriously harming your health or safety, you can ask for an investigation from your state labor office.

Fall Hazards

OSHA requires employers to protect all workers from falls starting at 4ft. Your employer must provide training, prevention and equipment based on the work you do.

Lock Out/Tag Out Rule

“Lockout” devices, such as combination locks, must be placed on equipment or machinery that could be dangerous if accidentally started up. Your employer should only give the combination to workers that are trained to start and stop the machine. A tag or other eye-catching warning devices should also be put on the machine to show that it may not be operated until the “tag out” device is removed. 

Breaks and Meals 

You are entitled to regular breaks and meal periods at your workplace. Your employer cannot set unreasonable restrictions on bathroom use.

Special Safety Rules for Certain Jobs

Agricultural Work

If you work on a cannabis or hemp farm, then you are doing agricultural work. Your employer must ensure that climbing or lifting to plant, maintain or harvest crops  is done safely. In addition, there are rules regarding sanitation, safe drinking water, pesticides and insecticides and the availability of medical care.

If you have housing at the farm where you work, your employer also has to make sure that living conditions are safe. There are different sets of rules for working and living conditions. Oregon workers can learn more about the rulings here.

For help with agriculture workplace pesticide issues, contact the OR Dept. of Agriculture Pesticide Division.

Retail / Budtender 

Retail workers face the special safety concern of potential robbery. Budtenders encounter ergonomics health issues, and with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, exposure to infectious disease as well. Many workplaces also have rules concerning safe ventilation, lighting, safe entries and exits, fire hazards, crime and workplace violence.

Bullying, Harassment, or Assault

Whether you’re being pressured to have sex with your boss or forced to listen to foul language or slurs, harassment and bullying of all types can create an unsafe, hostile work environment. While federal and state laws are limited in defining illegal behavior, that does not mean what you’re experiencing is acceptable. This section will guide you in understanding your rights and how to navigate hostile workplace environments.

Harassment: Under federal and OR state law it is illegal to harass a person in any aspect of employment because of that person’s race, color, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or other legally protected status. Harassment can include slurs, offensive or derogatory remarks about a person’s identity, or the display of offensive symbols. Harassment against someone because of their protected status can be illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim of the harassment being fired or demoted). See the Right to Be Free of Discrimination to get a comprehensive list of protected statuses and guidance on how to defend your rights. 

Workplace bullying typically involves malicious behavior such as deliberate insults, threats, demeaning comments, constant criticism, overbearing supervision, profane outburst, blatant ostracism, being overworked, or simply not communicating with colleagues. More subtle forms of bullying can include withholding or supplying incorrect work-related information, sabotaging projects, passive-aggressive behavior, blocking promotions, providing unclear or contradictory instructions, or requesting unnecessary or menial work.

Generally, it is not illegal for your boss to harass you unless it is done for an illegal reason. The law does not require that your boss be nice, kind or fair, only that your boss does not treat you differently because of your age, sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, or other protected status. However, If bullying starts as retaliation against an employee who has reported ethical concerns about the company, the employee may be protected under whistleblower statutes. Workers represented by a union can report the bullying to their Union Representative and seek support in addressing the behavior with workplace management. Learn more about bullying at: https://www.workplacefairness.org/workplace-bullying

Assault/Workplace Violence. If you have experienced sexual assault or physical violence at work, report it immediately to your supervisor and/or the police, and detail the incident in writing. If you have been threatened at your workplace and your supervisor or employer does not act, or the threat of further violence is serious, report it to the local police. If you feel that you were the victim of violence because your employer violated the general duty to provide a safe workplace, you can file a complaint with OSHA and your state labor office. Employers are not automatically liable for violent acts committed by their employees. However, if your employer could have or should have known that one of their employees had violent tendencies, they may be liable for injuries caused by that employee. Documenting and reporting threatening behavior when it happens will help you in holding your employer accountable if they fail to respond adequately to your concerns. Workers compensation laws require employers to pay for injuries suffered by an employee on the job. Furthermore, employers are required by OSHA to provide a safe work environment for their employees.

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) assists crime victims who suffer bodily injury or severe emotional stress from a crime classified as a gross misdemeanor or felony, and who are providing reasonable cooperation with law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of the offender. OVC covers: medical/dental benefits; lost wages; medication coverage; mental health treatment; grief counseling; and funeral expenses. OVC is a last payer of benefits, you must use your primary insurance first.

If You Find a Health or Safety Issue at Work

The Oregon State Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OROSHA) is responsible for administering the requirements for worker health and safety in Oregon. Check with your state’s labor office and OSHA office to learn about requirements in your area.

Step 1
See, smell, or hear something unsafe.
Step 2
Write down what happened, the time and date, exactly where, and who was involved. Keep this record.
Step 3
Report the safety hazard to your boss. (Note, If you are uncomfortable telling your boss directly, you can skip steps 3-4, and directly file an anonymous complaint with your local OSHA office.  You can also report it to a labor union or union representative.)
Step 4
If your boss does not fix the problem you can refuse to do the unsafe work, but you must stay at work. If you refuse to do unsafe work, tell your boss that you plan to report the violation.
Step 5
File a complaint with your local OSHA office.
Step 6
Your local OSHA office could require an inspection of your workplace.
Step 7
Your local OSHA office will decide whether or not the problem has to be fixed. You can request that they look over the decision again if you disagree.

 

Generally speaking, you have the right to refuse to do unsafe work, but you should stay at the jobsite and try to find safe work to do until your shift ends or you are asked to leave.

If you have a safety committee in your workplace, you can also tell the committee. Your employer might simply correct the issue and solve the problem. But if your employer doesn’t fix it and you are still concerned about the issue, you can file a complaint with your local OSHA office. 

Filing a Complaint

Complaints must be made in writing. You can use an online form available in English or Spanish, or you can just write your local OSHA office a letter explaining who you are and describing the problem. 

You can call your local OSHA office for more information about how to make your complaint and about the complaint process (interpreter services are available). You can also find information online.

Workers’ Compensation for Injury or Occupational Disease

If you are injured at work or develop an occupational (work-related) disease, you can apply for workers’ compensation. If you need medical treatment for your injury or illness you may be entitled to help in paying for treatment. You may also be entitled to receive partial lost wages if illness or injury stopped you from being able to work. All employees have the right to receive workers’ compensation, including undocumented workers. 

Learn more in the On the Job Injury or Diagnosis of an Occupational Disease section under Your Right to Care for Yourself & Your Family.

What to Do if Immigration Comes to Your Workplace

Immigration officers are not allowed to enter private (employee-only) areas of your workplace — whether it is a factory, store, farm, or orchard — without either the owner’s permission or a judicial warrant signed by a judge. If an officer does get permission, the officer can ask you questions about your immigration status.

  • You have the right to keep silent. You don’t even have to tell the agent your name.
  • You have the right to talk to a lawyer before answering any questions. You can tell the officer, “I wish to talk to a lawyer,” in answer to any question.
  • If you hire an attorney, speak only through your attorney.
  • Do not tell the immigration officer where you were born or your immigration status.
  • Do not show the officer your papers or any immigration documents. If the officer asks you for your papers, tell the officer, “Please speak to my lawyer.”

Many states have an immigrant solidarity network. In Oregon, you can contact the ACLU of Oregon immigration hotline: (971) 412-ACLU report ICE issues.

If you are approached by Police on the Street While Waiting for Work

The police often approach day laborers while they are gathering for work on street corners. In some places, day laborers and organizers have formed a respectful relationship with the police. If you can, work with a trusted community group or worker center to learn about your rights and to make a plan of action for dealing with the police. 

If You Are Approached By The Police:

  • The most important thing to remember is to stay calm and do not run because you may not be in any trouble. Running may give the police a reason to hold you. 
  • Never give a police officer false identification or immigration-related documents.
  • Regardless of your immigration status, you have the right to not answer the police officer’s questions. However, refusing to speak with the police can make them suspicious.
  • You should ask if you are free to leave. If the officer answers, “yes,” then you should walk away from the street corner. 

Make a Change

Get Involved

CWC gives workers a powerful voice through policy advocacy, leadership development, and community support. We host monthly Know Your Rights workshops that educate cananbis workers on their rights while at work.

Membership for workers is free and open to cannabis industry professionals of all kinds, from budtenders and trimmers to accountants and lab analysts.

Cannabis Workers Coalition

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Cannabis Workers Coalition d/b/a Joint Workers Coalition is a 501(c)4 non-profit
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