You probably hope you never have to approach your boss about a workplace safety concern, but if you’re a safety-conscious employee, it’s possible that at some point you will have to do just that. And while it’s true some companies won’t be receptive when you point out something potentially dangerous, most employers care about their workers’ welfare and will welcome your efforts.

Since June is National Safety Month, it’s the perfect time to discuss how you can communicate your concerns about an unsafe work area to your supervisor:

There are a few general rules for talking safety with your boss:

  • Find out how the matter should be raised. The company might have a reporting procedure in place already.
  • Don’t approach your boss with a confrontational attitude. Be respectful and polite.
  • Don’t try to place blame on anyone
  • Let them know you are speaking out of concern for everyone’s safety
  • Try not to put your boss on the defensive
  • After you present the issue, suggest a possible solution

And here are a few specific suggestions:

First, do your research

Conduct the necessary research to confirm your concern before you air it. Don’t complain about a safety issue just because you think there is one. Make sure you know what you’re talking about. OSHA.gov is an excellent place to start your research. Once you have the information that corroborates your safety concern, print it out and bring it with you when you talk to your employer.

Go through the chain of command

Address your safety concerns with your immediate supervisor. There is no good reason to irritate your boss by going over their head unless your results from that conversation are unsatisfactory. Then you should probably talk to your shop steward (if you’re working in a union shop) or the company’s safety manager.

An experienced safety director will do a walk-through of the area in question before approaching your supervisor. By doing this, the director can talk to the supervisor without bringing your name into it, by merely saying that the violation was observed during the walk-through. If all else fails, you have the right to contact OSHA directly and file a complaint.

Don’t let fear stop you from reporting a safety hazard

One of your rights as an employee is to have a workplace free of hazards. You also have the right to voice concern for your safety to your employer or OSHA without fear of retaliation. They cannot fire you, cut your pay, transfer you or change your working conditions to make you miserable. Keep you and your co-workers safe by doing the right thing.

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