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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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How can CSEA help me with a safety problem at my workplace?

We have a dedicated department to help members address safety concerns at work. Occupational Safety and Health Specialists are available to speak directly to members and can be brought in by local leadership to assist on-site to complete inspections, provide support at meetings, and conduct training.

My employer has asked me to do something that doesn’t feel safe or might get me killed or seriously injured, what can I do?

There are laws and regulations to protect you and we have safety specialist that can help you. Your contract may also have safety and health language to protect you. Contact your local leadership or your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for help. If you believe you will get seriously injured or your life is in direct jeopardy, file an imminent danger concern immediately.

What can I do if someone is bullying or harassing me at work?

Most employer’s conduct policies forbid harassment or bullying-type behaviors, however, proving it can be very difficult. Documentation is key, make sure you record dates, times, witnesses, locations, and what happened. Report the incident to your supervisor or follow the appropriate chain of command if the perpetrator is your supervisor. These are complicated matters, and so be sure to notify your local union representative. For more advice contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist.

There isn’t enough staff to safely do the job, what can I do?

Unfortunately, staffing is your employer’s right and typically falls under the management rights clause in many contracts. In most cases, the actual number of staff assigned cannot be the only basis for an actionable safety concern. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for advice and guidance on staffing levels with safety issues.

I’ve reported a safety issue at work and nothing has been done about it, what can I do?

Make sure you have reported the concern to your employer in writing through your employer’s official reporting policy. Notify your local union representatives, safety committee, and if necessary, OSHA/PESH. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for help and advice about utilizing OSHA/PESH.

There is a situation at my workplace and I’m not sure if it’s a safety violation, how can I find out?

Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Specialists are available to provide technical assistance over the phone, or you can view our fact sheet library and other resources for more information. Local and Unit Presidents can request an inspection by contacting your regional Occupational Safety and Health Specialist.

I think my workplace is making me sick, how can I find out?

CSEA has a specialized department that can help. The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Department has OSH Specialists, an Industrial Hygienist, and an Epidemiologist that can conduct work-place evaluations. Contact your OSH Specialist for more advice or help.

There is asbestos in my building, is it safe?

Properly maintained asbestos in buildings is generally safe providing it is NOT DISTURBED. Never cut, drill, sand, grind, or remove asbestos unless you are properly trained, equipped, and licensed. Asbestos is dangerous when it is “friable” or capable of being crushed or pulverized by hand pressure. Loose, crumbling, or frayed asbestos must be properly cleaned up and disposed of. Immediately report any suspected damaged asbestos containing materials to your supervisor and union representatives. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for more help and advice

My office is very hot or cold, what can be done?

Building codes regulate low indoor temperatures in buildings, but there are no regulations that regulate high indoor temperatures. Temperatures in indoor work places must be maintained at a minimum of 65°F or higher from September 15th to May 31st. The first step in addressing any temperature problem is to report the issue to your employer and your local or unit president. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for help and more advice.

I’ve been asked to work outdoors in extreme temperatures, what should my employer be doing?

Extended exposure to temperature extremes can lead to serious illnesses like heat stroke and hypothermia that are life threatening medical conditions. Employers are required to implement controls and provide education and training to prevent heat and cold related illnesses. Contact your OSH Specialist for more advice and help.

I was assaulted at work and want to press charges, but my employer is discouraging me, what are my rights?

Being at work does not negate your rights to file charges against any individual that has violated your civil rights.  Your employer should not give you difficulty or prevent you from filing charges if you have been assaulted at work. Immediately notify your Local or Unit President if you receive any difficulty after reporting the incident to your employer. You have the right to walk into your local law enforcement station and file charges. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for more advice and help.

I’ve been asked to operate machinery or equipment that isn’t in safe working order, what can I do?

Immediately report unsafe equipment or machinery to your employer in writing. Notify your local union representatives if you are still asked to operate the device. Almost all manufacturer’s specifications require equipment to be in proper working order or it must be taken out of service.  Employers can be cited for not following manufacturer specifications. If you believe you will get seriously injured or your life is in direct jeopardy, file an imminent danger concern immediately. Contact your OSH Specialist for help and more advice.

I have not been properly trained to use machinery or equipment, what can I do?

Employees must be trained to safely operate equipment and machinery, and employers can be cited for not following manufacturer’s specifications. Almost all manufacturer’s specifications require information and training before use. Notify your supervisor in writing if you have not been properly trained on equipment, also notify your local union representatives. Contact your OSH Specialist for help and more advice.

I was hurt or got sick at work, what should I do?

Report it to your employer immediately and seek appropriate medical attention. You have the right to choose the health care provider you want, as long as they accept workers’ compensation insurance. Be sure to instruct the health care provider that the treatment is for a work-related injury or illness. You have access to workers’ compensation attorneys through CSEA at no out of pocket cost to you. Notify your local union representatives to address the cause of your injury or illness. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for help and more advice.

How do I report a safety issue?
  1. Reporting to your employer: Follow your employer’s work rules for reporting safety issues. All employers must have a system for employees to report injuries and illnesses. Typically a form is used, however, any written documentation should suffice.
  2. Reporting to CSEA: You can report safety issues to local leadership in any way practical. It is strongly suggested that you put the complaint in writing and briefly describe the situation and adverse effects. If you are unsure or need guidance, you can always contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for more advice.
  3. Reporting to OSHA/PESH: Any employee can report a safety concern to OSHA or PESH. If the situation is actionable under state or federal law, the regulatory agency will open a complaint investigation. Complaints are typically required to be in writing and will keep the name confidential if requested. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for advice and help with OSHA/PESH.
What safety training should I be getting, and where can I get safety training?

By law, your employer is required to provide training and keep you safe from known hazards. The training you receive must be specific to the work activities performed. We can help evaluate your employer’s training programs and, in some instances, provide direct training at your worksite. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for more help with training questions.

I do not know anything about the chemicals I’m using and I think they are making me sick, where can I find out?

All employees in New York State have a right to know what chemicals they are using and are exposed to. Your employer must train you in understanding the hazards posed by these chemicals. If you work with or are exposed to chemicals, your employer must be able to provide a Safety Data Sheet (SDS) of that material. Report your concern to both your supervisor and the union. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for advice and help with chemical questions.

We have no working bathroom or water, what are we supposed to do?

Employers must provide potable drinking water and sufficient bathrooms. If there is an extended water outage, it is the employer’s responsibility to provide alternative potable water and bathroom facilities. Arrangements with nearby employers or businesses is acceptable. Accessible bathrooms for employees with disabilities must be provided. If you are experiencing an outage, ask your supervisor what arrangements have been made. If none have been made, report the issue to the local union representatives. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialists for advice and help with water and bathroom issues.

How do I file an OSHA or PESH complaint?

It is your right to file a complaint with the nearest OSHA or PESH office if you believe there is a violation at your workplace. Complaints must describe the hazard and be in writing, however, no specific form is required. Filing an OSHA or PESH complaint is the last step in addressing safety and health issues in the workplace; negotiating with management will often lead to a quicker and better resolution of the problem. Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialist for help and more advice with OSHA and PESH matters.

What is the difference between PESH and OSHA?

In New York State, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for enforcing safety regulations on the private sector. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 exempted public employees. CSEA led the fight for the passage of NYS Public Employees Safety and Health Act of 1980 which extended OSHA protections to public employees. The Public Employees Safety and Health Bureau (PESH) enforces OSHA regulations and other safety regulations (such as the workplace violence law won by CSEA in 2007) on the public sector.

What are my safety and health rights?

Protection Under OSHA & PESH

OSHA and PESH guarantee the employee’s right to file a safety and health complaint and will protect workers against retaliatory discrimination for raising a safety concern or starting any proceeding under or related to the OSHA/PESH Act. Employees who think they are being discriminated against may file a complaint with the nearest OSHA/PESH office.  You must file the complaint within 30 days of the discrimination incident.

General Whistleblower Protection

An employee may not be discharged or discriminated against in retaliation for:

  • Providing information or testimony to a public body in the course of an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into an activity, policy, or practice that presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health and safety.

OR

  • Disclosing to a public body an illegal activity, policy, or practice of the employer making a complaint, instituting a proceeding, or testifying at a proceeding concerning a violation of New York’s labor laws that presents a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety.

It is important to note:

  • You must first make a good faith effort to bring the violation to the attention of a supervisor and give the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the activity, policy, or practice, unless there is an imminent threat.
  • Unlike many federal laws and laws in other states, an employee who mistakenly believes that a violation has occurred is not protected, even if that belief is reasonable and in good faith.
  • You have 1 year to file.

Workers’ Compensation

An employee may not be discharged or discriminated against in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim or testifying in a workers’ compensation proceeding. An employee may file a complaint with the New York Workers’ Compensation Board. The complaint must be filed within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

Contact your Occupational Safety and Health Specialists for advice and help with OSH discrimination issues.

When is the next safety and health conference?

The next Safety and Health Conference will be held in Saratoga Springs, NY from April 17th – 19th, 2020.  More information will be updated when it is available. Speak with your local leadership if you wish to attend.