In the workplace, it can be intimidating to report unsafe, unsanitary, or unethical behavior. It can be made to seem like a betrayal of your employer’s trust or needlessly disrupting the status quo. Because of this underlying fear of standing out, some workplace hazards go unreported until someone gets hurt and files for workers’ compensation. By then, the company ends up having to pay for both the injured worker’s claim as well as the cost of fixing the hazard.
Because of this, whistleblowers are a vital part of keeping a company responsible for the safety and health of its workers, and their rights to report violations are protected in several ways.
What Do I Report?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) outlines workers’ rights to report safety violations, request an inspection of their workplace, and review records of injuries and illnesses.
Some workplace hazards are obvious, like purposely ignoring safety precautions because they take too much time, or experienced workers feel as if they’re only for new hires. In addition, any of the following can be grounds to file a report:
- Relying on personal protective equipment instead of solving safety problems at the source
- Failing to provide fall protection (ropes, harnesses) when applicable
- Failing to provide safety equipment like respirators free of charge to employees
- Failing to train workers in their own language
- Knowingly exposing workers to high levels of noise without protection
- Knowingly exposing workers to harmful chemicals
In addition, the Occupational Safety and Health Act requires all employers to keep their workplace free of hazards under the General Duty Clause.
The top ten most frequent OSHA violations align with common causes of workplace injury: falls and contact with equipment. Pay careful attention to scaffolding ladder safety and how hazards are communicated in your workplace. These issues are not just common, but they are also dangerous and could put your safety at risk.
What Happens When I Report?
Often, the fastest way to fix a workplace hazard is to file a complaint or notify your employer directly. If you have done so with no success, however, you may want to consider filing a complaint with OSHA.
When you file a safety and health complaint with OSHA, you will likely trigger an investigation by a compliance officer. This inspector will meet with your employer and employee representatives to assess potential hazards and propose solutions. He or she can then deliver a citation and proposed penalty for failing to address issues in the given time frame.
Not every complaint will receive a personal inspection, however. It is up to the OSHA regional administrator to review complaints and address issues when necessary. Complaints that are not investigated will be returned with a letter explaining why they are not being addressed. Employees can then ask for clarification on the decision or file another complaint.
Can I Be Punished For Reporting Workplace Hazards?
No. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for reporting safety issues or other OSHA violations. This includes retaliation or discrimination for filing an OSHA complaint, participating in an inspection, addressing safety or health concerns directly with the employer, or requesting health and safety records.
What is Retaliation?
Retaliatory actions can include:
- Failing to re-hire
- Denying promotion or benefits
If you have been the victim of these or any other discriminatory actions after exercising your right to a safe and healthful work environment, you can file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA.
Help from an Evansville Work Injury Lawyer
Your employer is required to report all workplace injuries and fatalities. If you were injured due to a safety hazard that had been reported but ignored, call the Hensley Legal Group. Our Evansville attorneys are on your side and will stand up for your rights. Contact us today for a free consultation of your case.