In 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act became law. Known as OSHA, the act protects workers and provides them with a mechanism for complaining if they feel that their working conditions are unsafe. Complaints are confidential and federally protected. Accordingly, employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee who files a complaint.
When Is It Appropriate to File a Complaint?
Some jobs are inherently dangerous. That’s why numerous safety guidelines are put into place. It’s also why workers in these jobs are trained to work with hazardous materials or in a dangerous environment. However, sometimes an employer skirts guidelines or doesn’t provide adequate training. This puts all workers at risk for injuries and even accidental death. If a worker believes that dangerous conditions exist, they should first inform their supervisor or other responsible individuals within the organization who can take action to correct the danger. If the employee’s warnings are ignored, it is appropriate to take the complaint to OSHA.
How to File an OSHA Complaint
OSHA provides many methods for filing complaints. With a federal government OSHA website and various state-approved OSHA regional websites, filing a complaint online is quick, easy and confidential. Perform an Internet search for the OSHA regional or area office for your state and look for the complaints link. Complaints can be submitted online or the complaint form can be downloaded and mailed. Alternatively, complaints can be taken over the phone by calling 1-800-321-OSHA. The attendant answering the call may refer you to your local OSHA office or may be able to help directly.
Information for the Complaint
Try to be as specific in the complaint as you can. Helpful information includes the number of workers at the dangerous site and what kinds of materials or chemicals they are using. If anyone has become sick or injured as a result of the work, OSHA will definitely want details about this as well. Include in the complaint details about how long the dangerous conditions have existed and whether or not anyone has tried to correct the problem.
Filing a Discrimination Complaint
If you file a complaint with OSHA and are subsequently disciplined, demoted, fired or otherwise punished by your employer, you can file a discrimination complaint online or over the phone. It’s important to act quickly, as discrimination complaints must be filed within 30 days of the incident in order for OSHA to take action.