The Occupational Safety and Health Act has changed workplace safety culture to help cut down on accidents and fatalities. It created OSHA, an agency that was established to help protect the worker’s right to safety. OSHA has very detailed rules and the ability to enforce those regulations if companies do not follow them. The agency can issue fines for safety violations.
First, OSHA must know of these violations. It discovers violations in two ways. The first is an OSHA inspection. The agency sends investigators to the workplace on its own to audit and checks for rule violations. OSHA can also investigate after it receives a complaint about a safety violation.
OSHA Offers Multiple Ways to Contact Them
Workers often want to know how they can report safety violations. OSHA is a sprawling agency with countless offices and branches, and workers do not always know how to contact them. At the same time, workers need to report violations to keep themselves and other employees safe.
The good news is that you do not have to know much about OSHA and its inner workings to file a complaint. OSHA gives workers several options on how to file a complaint. Of course, OSHA does not want to make it difficult for workers to reach them to report dangerous conditions because they rely on reports of rule violations to improve workplace safety.
The first way to contact OSHA is through a phone call. The main phone number is 800-321-6742. You hope that your complaint will be routed to someone who has the power to do something in enough time to protect workers from harm.
OSHA will likely forward your complaint to the local office near where you work. They will be the ones to investigate the complaint and take appropriate action. Therefore, you may want to contact that office directly if time is essential so you can save a few steps. A complete listing of OSHA offices is available online, and you can find the one closest to you. You could also contact the OSHA regional office in your area.
OSHA also has an online complaint form that you can use. This is a practical option because you can better describe the dangerous situation in writing. OSHA recommends that you sign the complaint. Putting your name to it increases the chance that investigators will show up for an inspection. However, you are not obligated to give your name when you sign a complaint.
Your Employer Cannot Retaliate
Many people worry that their employer will retaliate against them if they contact OSHA. While this is a legitimate concern, employers will make things worse if they retaliate against a whistleblower. There are laws that protect whistleblowers and punish the employer if they take adverse action against an employee who reports to OSHA. Usually, an employee cannot sue their employer for workplace safety violations. However, if you reported a workplace safety concern to OSHA and your employer takes adverse employment action, you can file a complaint with OSHA and take legal action against the employer.
If you win a legal action against your employer for retaliation, you could receive the following:
- Back pay
- Other possible relief
For example, if your employer denied you a promotion because of your complaint, OSHA or a federal court could order your promotion.
When you file a complaint with OSHA, it is best to be as specific as possible. After all, OSHA receives scores of complaints, and they have a limited number of people to investigate. Many complaints do not end up in an inspection, or OSHA has a delayed response.
OSHA has a hierarchy for when they will investigate a complaint. There is a list of priorities. The first thing OSHA will investigate is complaints that reference an imminent threat of death or serious physical harm. After all, OSHA exists to protect employees’ health and safety from violations and workplace injuries.
OSHA Will Investigate Employee Complaints
OSHA reviews every complaint before deciding whether to send an inspector for investigation. The key is that the complaint must show that there is a workplace standard that is being violated. This does not mean that a complaining employee must know all the OSHA rules. They should give an evident description of the problem that would allow OSHA to conclude that they need to investigate further.
In the end OSHA must report on the results of its investigation to the person who made the complaint. The system relies on people coming forward to report dangerous conditions. There is only so much that OSHA can do on a day-to-day basis to monitor every single workplace across the country. They rely on employees’ input and contact. In turn, employees can take comfort in knowing that they can communicate with OSHA, and they have legal recourse if their employers try to punish them for it.
Does OSHA Listen to Employee Complaints?
Yes, OSHA must review complaints that employees file. If there is evidence that someone is in imminent danger or of a rule violation, they will inspect and possibly punish the Employer.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Making a Report to OSHA?
No, your employer can’t fire you for making a safety violation report. An employer is legally prohibited from retaliating against an employee who makes a complaint. If your employer does retaliate, you can file a claim against your employer.
Why Should I Report a Safety Violation?
You need to report a safety violation at work to keep you and your fellow employees safe on the job. Otherwise, OSHA will not know about safety violations.
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