The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees enforcement of workplace safety regulations for the federal government. These safety standards are meant to reduce the likelihood of workplace illnesses or injuries. Compliance with them is mandatory. If your company has unsafe working conditions, you should know how to report those conditions to OSHA.
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Follow the proper protocol. In most cases, OSHA prefers that you tell your employer about your workplace safety concerns first. This will give the employer a chance to address those concerns and perhaps fix them. Some employers are unaware that unsafe working conditions exist at the company.
Know who covers you. If approaching your employer isn't an option or does not yield positive results, then move forward with the complaint process. Visit OSHA's Web site (see Resources below) to find out whether your workplace is covered by a state or federal OSHA program.
Make your complaint. OSHA provides a variety of ways to file your complaint. You may file a complaint online at OSHA's Web site (see Resources below), or you may call or write to the OSHA office closest to you. Telephone numbers and addresses of OSHA regional offices can be found on the OSHA Web site.
Tips and warnings
- By reporting unsafe working conditions, you may be protecting your coworkers and your company from medical and legal hardships down the road.
- OSHA investigations can take anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the seriousness of the situation and whether an on-site investigation is required. Some investigations can be done by phone and have a much quicker turnaround than more complicated workplace safety issues.
- Your employer cannot fire or take any retaliatory actions against you for reporting workplace safety concerns to OSHA. You are protected from these actions under the federal whistleblower program. Nonetheless, some employers still attempt to retaliate against employees when they complain to OSHA. If this happens, you have legal recourse. Consult your attorney or report the adverse actions to OSHA. Contact the American Bar Association (see Resources below) for a referral for an attorney.