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OSHA Reporting Requirement: How to Report a Violation

17 Oct


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) dictates and enforces workplace health and safety standards for workers through training, outreach, and assistance. An OSHA violation occurs when a company or employee(s) willingly, or unknowingly, ignore real and potential safety hazards. A violation doesn’t automatically mean an incident occurred. But what is the process when a violation occurs?

Employees, or a representative, have the right to file complaints confidentially to OSHA and request they conduct an inspection of the workplace. Complaints should be filed as soon as possible after the violation or hazard is noticed.

There are multiple ways to report a violation. Complaints can be submitted via an online form on OSHA’s website, complete the form and email, mail, or fax it back to your local OSHA office. Employees or representatives can call their local OSHA office or the main number (800.321.6742) and speak to an OSHA employee about the violation. The fourth way to report a complaint is to do so in person at your local OSHA location.

Another option OSHA has is what they call their whistleblower complaints. Whistleblower complaints are filed when employees feel their employer retaliated against them for exercising their rights under the Whistleblower Protection Law. Employees have the same four methods of reporting these types of complaints—online form; email, mail, fax the form; telephone; or in-person. The forms are slightly different, so employees should be careful to use the correct resources. Whistleblower forms can be found here.

Once the complaint is filed, OSHA evaluates it to determine the best way to address it. Violations will be addressed with either an on-site inspection or an off-site investigation. For OSHA to conduct on-site inspections, at least one of the following criteria must be met:

  • A written, signed complaint by a current employee or representative with details enabling OSHA to determine that a danger or violation exists and threatens physical harm or imminent danger.
  • An allegation that physical harm has occurred because of a hazard.
  • A report of imminent danger.
  • A complaint about a company in an industry covered by one of OSHA’s local or national programs, or a hazard targeted by one of these programs.
  • Inadequate response from an employer who was contacted regarding the hazard through a phone/fax investigation.
  • A complaint against an employer with a history of failure-to-abate OSHA citations within the past three years.
  • Referral from a whistle-blower investigator.
  • Complaint at a facility scheduled for, or already undergoing an OSHA inspection.

OSHA will contact the employer to discuss the alleged hazards and follow up with a letter. Employers have five days to respond to the letter identifying any issues found and noting the corrective actions taken or planned. From there, OSHA will determine if an on-site inspection is necessary.

It’s important for employers to comply with OSHA standards to avoid fines and business interruptions. If you’re looking to stay on top of the latest requirements, VensureHR can assist. Our risk and compliance team knows all about OSHA requirements in each state you operate in and will help you develop a plan to make your workplace as safe as possible and mitigate potential hazards and risks. Schedule a call to learn more.


OSHA- Reporting Process

OSHA- Complaint Handling Process

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