From John Steven Niznik
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
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.