The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidelines for workplace safety that employers must follow for the sake of their workers’ well-being and the sound functioning of their workplace. OSHA standards act as a supplement to the common sense and conscientiousness that should guide safety protocols at all workplaces, and dictate proper gear choices, from full brim hard hats to high visibility vests, for specific industries. It is the right of all Americans to work in an environment that does not place them at undue risk. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives all employees and their representatives the right to report safety and OSHA violations.
Employees or their representatives who believe there is a substantial hazard in their workplace, or that their employer is not following OSHA safety standards, may file an official complaint and request and OSHA inspection of their workplace. For their own protection and in order to preserve their jobs, complainants have the right to request that their names not be revealed to their employers. For the purposes of filing a complaint, employee representatives may be any of the following: authorized representatives of collective bargaining organizations, such as unions; attorneys acting for employees; or any person acting in a representative capacity, from clergy to family members to nonprofit groups and organizations.
Before contacting OSHA to report the safety violation, the employee may wish to take intermediate steps to resolve the hazard. Initially, the employee may wish to report the issue verbally to the workplace’s supervisor or manager, or through any official workplace hazard reporting procedure that may exist. The employee may also raise the issue with the workplace health and safety representative. If such measures prove ineffective, employees may attempt to negotiate with management through union representatives. Workers may also contact local government organizations, such as Licensing & Inspection, to report workplace hazards.
In order to file a complaint with OSHA, a complainant should fill out an official OSHA complaint form from OSHA’s website. The complainant may submit the form online or download it and fax or mail it to the nearest OSHA regional or national office. Mailing addresses and telephone numbers for OSHA’s offices are available via the OSHA website. If a complainant believes that there is an emergency or that a safety violation is immediately life-threatening, the complainant should directly call the nearest OSHA office or 1-800-321-OSHA.
Workers do not have to know whether a specific OSHA standard has been violated when reporting a safety violation. It is enough that the complainant provide enough information for OSHA to determine that a hazard probably exists. At a minimum, the complainant must identify the workplace or company, the hazard, and the particular worksite or building where the hazard is located. In order to increase the likelihood of an onsite inspection, the complainant should include details including: number of employees working at the site and how many are exposed to the hazard; how workers are exposed to the hazard; what type of work is performed in unsafe conditions; what equipment is used and its condition; what materials or chemicals are used; how long employees work around the hazard; how long the condition has existed; whether anything has been done to correct the problem; whether anyone has thus far been harmed by the hazard; and whether there have been any “near-miss” incidents.
In order to ensure a safe and healthful workplace, OSHA provides workers with other rights in addition to requesting OSHA workplace inspections for safety violations. Workers may receive information and training about safety issues, methods to prevent harm, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace. They may get copies of any results of tests OSHA performs to find hazards in the workplace. Additionally, they may review records of work-related injuries and illnesses and get copies of medical records. All resources, including OSHA complaint forms, are readily available in Spanish as well as English.