As an employee, you are entitled by federal law to a safe working environment, and this law requires your employer to provide it. You may have been concerned enough about health and safety hazards in your workplace to have voiced those concerns to your employer but to no avail. You may also have been involved in a workplace accident in Houston.
Whatever the case, you do have the right to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA).
When Should You File?
Many wonder about the best time to file an OSHA complaint. The first and best thing for you to do is to attempt to resolve any issues by reporting them. Individuals can report to their workplace’s health and safety committee, or to their managers or supervisors.
If you don’t feel that this will be effective, or if you have not received the desired result from your attempts, you can visit your local OSHA office to discuss your issues at any time.
Your Rights and What to Expect
As an employee, you or your representatives are within the rights to request that your workplace is inspected for safety or health violations which pose a threat or imminent danger to physical health.
You can also request an inspection if you aren’t an employee. Those who don’t work at a place of business, but who have sufficient knowledge that hazards exist, can also submit an OSHA complaint.
Employees and other individuals all have the right to submit a complaint without fear of retaliation or discrimination from their employers, management, or any committees to which their complaints were submitted.
Your employee rights include the right to work on safe machinery, as well as to be provided with proper safety gear for the job you are doing. You also have the right to be protected from toxic chemicals and to receive copies from any testing for hazards completed at your workplace.
Reasons a Complaint May or May Not Result in an Inspection
It’s true that your complaint is, essentially, a request for OSHA inspection. However, submitting this complaint doesn’t guarantee that an inspection into the possibility of Houston accidents will take place because, in some cases, the complaint submission is all that’s required to correct safety hazards. Individuals can choose to file a formal or non-formal complaint.
Another reason a complaint may not result in an inspection is that OSHA must evaluate each complaint it receives in accordance with classification criteria and local office procedures.
However, if your local OSHA office determines that employees are in serious and imminent danger due to the information you provided to them, an immediate inspection can be issued without having to first receive the signed complaint by mail.
The Formal OSHA Complaint
In order to be considered as formal, a complaint must be signed by you, the concerned current employee or representatives who were themselves exposed to the hazards in the complaint. As well, the complaint must allege that an employer’s violation of one or more safety regulations poses imminent danger of physical harm to employees.
The Non-Formal OSHA Complaint
Non-formal OSHA complaints are typically made by former employees or those who do not work at the location in question. This type of complaint can be made verbally and may be able to be investigated and resolved without a physical visit to the location. Non-formal complaints may result in an on-site inspection if OSHA deems this to be necessary.
Complaint Classification, Employer Notification, and Anonymity
It’s important to note that OSHA makes the determination about whether a complaint will be considered to be formal or non-formal. Typically, a non-formal complaint will be unsigned and/or submitted verbally, whereas a formal complaint is usually signed and in written form.
If a complaint was submitted verbally, it can become a formal complaint once signed by the concerned individual. The individual can also formalize the complaint by signing a letter that contains the details of the alleged hazards or accidents in Houston.
The involved employer will receive a copy of the OSHA complaint. If an individual wishes to remain anonymous but has hand-written the complaint, it can be copied onto another form to preserve anonymity.
Providing Sufficient Information
In order to ensure thorough processing of any complaint, OSHA needs to have enough information to be able to determine the existence of health and safety hazards, and then to confirm that an employer is in violation.
To achieve this, the complainant must provide as much detail as possible about the issue itself. This will help OSHA to make a determination about the existence of the problem, as well as its seriousness. If the information given is detailed and clear enough, the next step will be for OSHA to call or write the employer or conduct an on-site investigation.
Some specific information to provide in an OSHA complaint includes:
- Chemicals or materials being used in the workplace
- Number of shifts working in the area in question
- Whether or not other employees have become injured due to the hazards identified in the complaint
- Whether the employer has conducted tests to determine any exposure by employees to substances or conditions, and the results of these tests
- Any personal protective equipment that is required by the employer and whether employees are using it
- How long or how often employees work in the area before exposure occurs
- Whether any attempts were previously made to correct the issue, and the number of attempts that were made
- Length of time the condition has existed to your knowledge
- Whether you or other employees are experiencing symptoms suspected to be linked to the alleged hazards
Timeline for Complaint and/or Inspection Processing
OSHA schedules inspections based on how well they meet formal complaint criteria. Any complaints deemed to be serious are prioritized accordingly, with the deadline for inspection being within 30 working days of the date the complaint was received. Those complaints which OSHA deems to be formal but less serious are processed within 120 working days.
As stated previously, an inspection can be scheduled immediately if it’s determined that imminent danger to employees exists as the result of information you provided.
Aspects of the Process to Keep in Mind
If sufficient details or other information is not provided in your complaint, OSHA will either ask you to clarify statements you’ve made or submit supplemental information about your Houston accident. Should they decide that your claim is not a valid one, you will be notified of the decision and the reasons for it via postal mail.
It is outside of the law to provide false information in your complaint. You must ensure that all statements, certifications, and representation on your behalf are true, accurate, and correct to the best of your knowledge at the time you submitted the application to OSHA. If you choose to violate these rules, you risk a $10,000 fine, a 6-month imprisonment, or both.
If you have exercised your right to express concern about the safety of working conditions, and your employers have retaliated against you as a result, you do have the option to file a discrimination complaint against them.
There are different statutes for reporting to OSHA. These statutes are dependent on the nature of the complaint, as well as the industry for which the complaint is being submitted. OSHA’s statues are listed for the laws which govern:
- Occupational environment and nuclear safety
- Consumer and investor protection
Your industry will determine your deadline for filing a discrimination complaint. For example, if you work in a nuclear power plant licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and have experienced retaliation from your employer as the result of reporting violations, you will have 180 days to file your discrimination complaint.
However, if you have experienced retaliation from an employer due to a complaint about the discharge of pollutants into water, or the improper disposal of solid or hazardous waste, you will have 30 days to file.
Your Workplace Should Be Safe
Regardless of the industry you are working in, you have the right to earn your living safely. Unfortunately, too many employers will retaliate against their employees for voicing their concerns or refuse to agree to the existence of employee injury, which leaves the employees without monetary compensation.
If you have become injured as the result of a workplace accident in Houston and haven’t been able to get the compensation you deserve, it may be time to contact a professional. Johnson Garcia LLP has the experience you need to avoid the unnecessary hardship of being unable to meet your financial obligations as the result of a workplace injury.
Our dedicated team is ready to do all we can to ensure you get compensation. If you don’t win your case, we don’t get paid; it’s that simple. Discover how hard Johnson Garcia LLP will work to get you the compensation you deserve; look through our website to learn more.