If you see a hazard on your worksite that isn’t being addressed, or believe that your employer is violating a standard that has been established by OSHA and is applicable to your workplace, what can you do about it? OSHA has protections in place to help you report these types of violations so hazards can be remedied and your workplace is as safe as it should be. If you file a complaint, your name will be withheld and OSHA will evaluate whether the violation requires an on-site inspection or simply an off-site investigation.
The top priority for inspection is imminent danger—a situation where employees face an immediate risk of serious physical harm or death. The second priority goes to catastrophes (an accident that hospitalized three or more workers) or fatalities. Complaints and referrals filed by employees is the third priority—so keep this in mind if you report a violation.
When reporting violations, employees have the right to file two types of complaints: a whistleblower complaint, or a health and safety complaint. If you believe your employer is violating OSHA standards, or there is a serious hazard present in your workplace that is not being addressed, you can file a confidential safety and health complaint and request an OSHA inspection. The complaint should be filed as soon as possible after you become aware of the violation. A whistleblower complaint, on the other hand, should be filed if you think your employer has retaliated against you for previously reporting a violation; this goes against your rights under OSHA’s whistleblower protection laws.
Whether you file a whistleblower complaint or a health and safety complaint, there are four ways to report violations to OSHA:
- Submit your complaint online by using OSHA’s online complaint form.
- Print and fill out the form, then fax, mail, or email the form to your local OSHA office.
- Call your local OSHA office; staff there can answer questions and discuss your complaint with you.
- Visit your local OSHA office in person. Again, staff can go over your complaint and get a full understanding of why you are reporting a violation.
In states that have OSHA-approved State Plans, you can file a complaint with both the State Plan and the federal OSHA agency. State Plans provide the same protections to workers, and there are currently 23 jurisdictions and states that have occupational safety and health programs that have been approved by OSHA.
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