Each year, millions of American workers suffer injury, illness or even death on the job. Worse, employer willful or unwitting negligence of safety and health standards is too often the cause. But, thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the number of employer-negligence victims has at least declined over the years.
OSHA is responsible for assuring the safety and health of American workers by:
- Setting and enforcing workplace and occupational safety and health standards
- Providing training, outreach and education
- Establishing partnerships
- Encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health
If you're an American worker who's concerned about job safety and health for yourself or coworkers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the place to turn. You may file a health and safety complaint with OSHA against your employer online, or by mail, fax or telephone. (If your state has an OSHA-approved plan, OSHA will forward your complaint to the appropriate agency.) If your complaint warrants it, OSHA will schedule a workplace inspection and force your employer to correct infractions of health and safety standards. Your employer might also have to pay a punitive fine. In fiscal year 2004, OSHA conducted over 39,167 inspections, revealing 86,708 infractions that resulted in fines of over $85 million.
Almost every U.S. employer and worker is under OSHA jurisdiction for occupational safety and health standards in the workplace and elsewhere on the job. OSHA gets its authority from the Federal, Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act or OSHA). It enforces the Act through regulations. Your state might have its own safety and health standards, laws and regulations that provide the same or better protection. For example, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) enforces the California Health and Safety Code of Regulations, under the Cal/OSHA Program.
Because the OSH Act has built-in whistle blower protections, your employer cannot rightfully retaliate in any way against you for:
- Filing a complaint with OSHA about safety and health
- Seeking an OSHA inspection
- Participating in an inspection
- Participating or testifying in any proceeding related to an inspection
- Refusing to work under conditions of imminent danger of death or serious injury
OSHA administers the whistle blower protections and enforces the regulations of thirteen additional laws related to workplace and occupational safety and health. All consider employer retaliation to be a form of illegal employment discrimination. If your employer does retaliate against you, contact the nearest OSHA office right away. You have only a limited amount of time (e.g., 30 days) to file a retaliation complaint against your employer. If your state has enacted safety and health laws and regulations, they too likely have whistle-blower retaliation protections and time limits for filing complaints.
For more information, browse the informative site of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
|Workplace and Occupational Safety and Health offers general information only and is not intended as legal advice. Neither the author nor publisher are engaged in rendering legal services. Please see an attorney for legal advice. Because laws vary by state and are subject to change at both the state and Federal levels, neither the author nor publisher guarantees the accuracy of this article. Should you act based on this information, you do so at your sole risk. Neither the author nor publisher shall have any liability arising from your decision to act on this information.|