Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration Act, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. However, at some point in your career you may be put in a situation where the organization you work for is violating OSHA rules and regulations and putting the health and safety of you and your coworkers at risk. While you don’t want to be seen as the office tattletale, it’s important that you speak out to minimize potentially hazardous work conditions. Follow the below tips to properly and professional file a complaint.
Talk to your supervisor.
If you believe that your workplace is unsafe, your first action should be to make sure your supervisor is aware of the issue. If your workplace has a department or person dedicated to workplace safety, make sure that they too are informed of the issue. You should never file an OSHA complaint without making sure your employer is aware of the problem and giving them an opportunity to fix it first.
Consult with other employees.
After talking to your supervisor the issue doesn’t get fixed, consult your colleagues and see if they have the same safety concerns. In general, your complaint will get more attention if you present it on behalf of a group of employees rather than an individual. If your coworkers do acknowledge the issue and you file the complaint on behalf of a group of individuals, there is safety in numbers. An employer is much less likely to retaliate against a group of employees that filed a complaint than an individual.
Decide which way to file.
There are two main ways to file an OSHA complaint. You can file online at the OSHA site. Online complaints are typically addressed by OSHA’s phone/fax systems, which mean they’re resolved informally over the phone with the employer. Use the online filing system for a less serious complaint or when you don’t think an onsite inspection of the workplace is needed.
For a more serious issue, file a written, signed complaint. When submitted to OSHA offices, written complaints are much more likely to result in on-site OSHA inspections. Download the complaint form, complete it, and then mail or fax it to your local OSHA office.
If you request it, OSHA will keep your identity and that of any other employees involved in the complaint confidential. However, anonymous complaints are often treated as non-employee complaints and are considered lower priority than employee complaints. If you want your identity to be kept secret, simply check the section on the complaint form that states: “Do not reveal my name to the employer.”
The OSHA is a large bureaucratic organization that receives thousands of complaints. The best way to get a prompt and accurate response is to be specific as possible.
You should never be scared to file a complaint when your safety and health are at risk within your job. It is illegal for your employer to fire or otherwise discriminate against you for filing an OSHA complaint.
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