When your employer is violating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulations and allowing serious safety hazards to exist, you may feel compelled to file a complaint with OSHA to protect yourself and co-workers. If you decide to take this step, you want to file your complaint quickly because OSHA can only take actions, such as issuing a citation, for violations that currently exist or have existed within six months of the date you filed your complaint. You also want to make your complaint as strong as possible to increase the likelihood that you will achieve the goal you are hoping for when taking this important step.
Put This Information in Your OSHA Complaint to Make it More Persuasive
You start the process of making a complaint with OSHA by filing a complaint with their regional office for the area where you work. While you can file your complaint by telephone, mail, fax, or online, it is best to file it directly at your regional or area office. Your complaint is more likely to result in an on-site investigation by OSHA if it is signed by you and filed this way.
Your first step is to complete the OSHA complaint form. If you choose to use a letter instead, you will want to be certain that your complaint includes all of the information contained in the complaint form. You can download a copy of the form on OSHA’s How to File a Safety and Health Complaint Page.
As with any legal document, official form, letter, or other important document, you will have a better chance of getting a good response if you provide a strong presentation of the information that proves your complaint. Here are some helpful tips about the information you should include in the OSHA complaint:
- Site location. You want to be certain to include the correct street address and zip code because this would be the address that the OSHA inspector would come to for an on-site inspection. Be sure to include the location of the door that the inspector should enter through to see the violation.
- Management official. You should put down the name of the safety engineer or industrial hygienist on site if there is one, site manager, or highest managerial official at your workplace. If you do not know this person’s name, you can leave it blank. The inspector would ask to speak to the person in charge when he comes to inspect.
- Type of business. You want this to be as thorough and accurate as possible. The reason for this is that OSHA targets certain industries. In addition, the OSHA inspector may want to research the hazards of your industry before he conducts an inspection or contacts your employer.
- Hazard description. This is the most important question that you need to answer. Your answer should be complete, clear, organized, and explain the seriousness of the hazard. Briefly describe the hazard and the number of employees who are exposed to or threatened by it. Be as specific as possible. For example: name the type of metal, chemical name, or the make and model of the equipment that you are complaining about. You also want to name the location of the safety hazard because this may be the only area that the OSHA inspector inspects. If possible, include pictures, surveys, drawings, grievances, accident reports or other helpful information that support your complaint.
- Location of the hazard. Again, it is critical that you explain the exact location of the hazard. If you think it would be helpful, include a map for the inspector. You cannot trust your employer to take the OSHA inspector to the correct location. Some employers have been known to take the official to the wrong workplace area to give another employee time to clean up the hazardous condition.
- Complaints to your employer or government agency. If your employer already knows of the complaint or there was an investigation by another governmental agency, you want to include details concerning this, being as specific as possible. You should provide any contact information you have regarding the agency and the managerial employee involved in an internal or external complaint investigation. Attach any documentation you have.
- Your desire as to your identity. If you are not part of a union, you may want to ask OSHA not to reveal your name to your employer. It will not affect how your complaint is handled but could protect you from harassment by your employer—illegal but a possible unfortunate result of your complaint.
If you are considering filing an OSHA complaint, you want the help of an experienced attorney who can advise you on whether this is a wise decision, help you draft a strong complaint, and defend you if your employer retaliates against you. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.