Prior to registering a complaint alleging workplace hazards to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), employees must understand the procedure and their legal rights to report OSHA violations.
Requesting an immediate inspection in response to an OSHA violation is only advised if it is clearly stated under OSHA regulations. Although OSHA has mentioned most workplace hazards under its regulation, counting on OSHA to deal with undefined workplace safety issues is not a good idea.
If part of a union, submit your request by contacting it to file an OSHA Violation complaint on your behalf and protect you from punishment. Otherwise, consult with your colleagues before taking any action.
OSHA determines its response to violations by ensuring:
- Who is the complainant? An employee’s complaint will be given more weight than a bystander’s.
- Nature of the complaint. Complaints concerned with matters of life and death will be given priority over others.
Why the Whistleblower Plays a Key Role?
A whistleblower is a person who uncovers unlawful, illegal, or unsafe information or behavior, fraud, or abuse of taxpayer money. Whistleblowers can choose to do so internally or publicly.
If you publicly expose an OSHA violation, you can seek assistance from OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program. Employers face legal consequences for violating anti-retaliation regulations. They will also face intense media scrutiny in this ordeal.
Employers who violate an OSHA may be liable for back pay and compensatory penalties. Additionally, they will have to pay for costs incurred due to an OSHA investigation. Repeat offenders may face civil fines ranging from $10,000 to $135,000. In extreme cases, criminal charges can be levied if any violations result in casualties.
It is estimated that in total, 6,924 complaints have been filed in November 2022, including 11 new complaints since the last report. It is a common misconception that employees can invoke the First Amendment in whistleblowing cases. As it only covers government reprisals for exercising free speech. However, this does not absolve private employers from all responsibility.
Where to File OSHA Violation Complaints?
OSHA offices are located throughout the country; thus, OSHA Violation complaints can be filed in person by visiting an OSHA Area Office nearest to the alleged workplace. If unable to see the correct Area Office, complaints will be directed to the designated Area office online through fax, mail, email, and telephone.
As it is understood that OSHA prioritized some complaints over others, it is essential to how a complaint is filed. To communicate the complaint clearly and identify the offense and offenders, proof of concrete evidence of malpractice should be made available through audio/visual or other forms of documented proof, like emails or official letters. A complaint will be taken seriously if the proper procedure is followed.
An OSHA violation complaint can be registered anonymously or officially through a letter, over the phone, or online. Though OSHA classifies anonymous complaints from an outsider and does not prioritize them, it does not completely ignore them. Therefore, if you feel revealing your identity will threaten your safety, you should file an anonymous complaint.
How can your report OSHA violations Anonymously?
OSHA has over 20 laws protecting whistleblowers, including Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. However, OSHA does not allow retaliatory practices against workers who complain about unsafe working conditions. Most people consider approaching the authorities to report OSHA violations as the best way to report corrupt practices within your workplace. You can register a complaint here.
Your complaint should have the following:
- The employee was engaged in activities subject to whistleblower protection laws
- The employer was aware or had an idea that his employees engaged in protected activities
- The employer took hostile measures against employees
- The employee’s protected activity led the employer to take adverse measures
You may not necessarily use this online form for your complaint. Complaints can also be filed through an email or letter and in any language. You may also file a complaint on the OSHA helpline. After filing a complaint, OSHA will contact you to determine if they will conduct an investigation. Therefore, cooperating with OSHA when they do a follow-up contact would be best. Otherwise, your complaint will be dismissed.
You cannot file an anonymous complaint with OSHA against your employer. Once a complaint is filed, OSHA will notify your employer of your objection to allow them to respond to grievances made against them. However, your identity will remain protected in front of your employer. Do not include witness names in your filed complaint so they may be protected against their employer. You will be able to present these and other details once OSHA starts its investigation.
How to Address an OSHA Violation Complaint?
The better you present your case, the more likely you will receive a favorable response, as with other official forms and letters. Although you may use an OSHA complaint form, it is not necessary. If you want to file it with a firm, it contains a list of all the questions on the form and explanatory notes.
- Employer name — make sure you type out your employer’s complete name without abbreviations.
- Site location — the workplace’s street address, including ZIP code. It is the address where an OSHA inspector will arrive, so tell them where the inspector should enter to see the hazard.
- Mailing address (if different) — in case the company receives mail at a different address than the site location address.
- A member of management — Fill in the name of any safety engineers or industrial hygienists on the job. If not, provide OSHA with the site manager’s name or the highest-ranking company official on the job. Leave it blank if you’re unsure who to nominate, and the inspector will ask for the “person in charge.”
- Type of business — OSHA focuses on specific industries for special attention, and an inspector may wish to examine the hazards of your industry before an inspection.
If you are an authorized representative of affected employees, you should mention the name of the organization you represent.
OSHA divides all complaints into two categories, inspection complaints and investigative complaints. After receiving a complaint, OSHA inspectors will always visit the workplace. Likewise, OSHA will always contact the employer after conducting an investigation. It will then detail the complaint and provide recommendations for correcting it. Employers can either deny a problem exists or claim they are addressing it. 5 Days are given to submit their response.