According to OSHA statistics, about 6,000 workers die each year from work-related causes. In order to decrease this number and increase the safety of U.S. workers, OSHA remains open and ready to hear about workplace safety violations.
Whether these violations are related to sexual harassment, discrimination, general safety or health code violations, OSHA encourages employees to file a complaint in order to make a change.
How does OSHA handle all the complaints it receives a year?
OSHA made changes to its reporting policy this past year, indicating that employers must report a single employee overnight hospitalization within 24 hours. Previously, employers only had to make this report if three or more employees were hospitalized overnight. The new regulations also require mandatory reporting of any amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours.
A recent article published in The National Law Review states that nearly 40 percent of mandatory reports to OSHA lead to on-site inspections, between 200-250 weekly since this implementation began. On the heels of this announcement the Justice Department has said it will push harder for criminal prosecution of individuals, as well as companies who commit OSHA violations, in a willful manner, that cause the death of workers. Complaints can be made in four different mediums, online, a downloadable fax or email, telephone and letters. Learn more about filing a complaint here.
How does OSHA decide how to inspect different companies?
OSHA usually takes a “worst first” approach, prioritizing companies where an imminent danger is known, or one that can cause serious physical harm. Even if a complaint is not filed within your company, an inspection will take place regardless at some point in time, as mandated by government regulations. OSHA doesn’t need an appointment to visit your place of business, and instead can show up without announcement or call on the phone. In cases of immediate danger though, inspectors may give an advance notice in order to remedy the situation quickly and efficiently.
If your business does receive an inquiry from OSHA, keep in mind that a response is required within five days.
When OSHA arrives, depending on union or non-union status a different employee will perform the walk-around with the inspector. In a union company, a representative will often accompany the inspector, but in companies without union representation, an inspector will often perform alone, but will interview multiple employees during it. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the inspection may be conducted over a period of days or hours. It is recommended to take notes during this time, as to be able to create change as quickly as possible, as well as for maintaining records for the business.
After the inspection, the OSHA inspector will review any violations that are found, detail possible remedies and inform violators of fines for repeated or non-compliant changes.
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