Filing An OSHA Complaint

Posted by Melissa Hall in #YHSafetyTips, Oct 31, 2018

Created in 1970, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is a national public health agency that assures safe and healthful conditions for working Americans by enforcing standards and providing training, education and compliance assistance. To comply with the OSHA law, employers are tasked with providing a safe and healthful environment.

OSHA covers most private sector employers and their workers, as well as some public sector employers and workers in all 50 states and a majority of US territories. Those not covered by OSHA include self-employed workers, immediate family members of farm workers, and workplaces that are regulated by another federal agency.

Filing A Complaint

If you feel your workplace has unsafe or unhealthful working conditions, you may want to file a complaint with OSHA. Before filing a complaint, check with your supervisor or employer to see if your company has a reporting process in place.

Employees can file a complaint online, by phone, mail or email with the nearest OSHA office and request that an inspection be completed. Workers may ask that OSHA keep their name confidential if they are not comfortable revealing that information to their employer. Employees that file a complaint are protected from any retaliation by their employer through the Whistleblower Protection Program. For more information about whistleblower rights, read our previous post.

To file a complaint, call 1-800-321-OSHA or contact the nearest OSHA office. You may also file online at . Be sure to include your name (if you do not wish to remain anonymous), address and telephone number.

Written and signed complaints submitted to your local OSHA office are more likely to result in an on-site OSHA inspection. Complaints submitted online are most often resolved informally over the phone with an employer.

What Is OSHA Looking for in a Complaint

Unfortunately, due to the large volume of complaints that are filed, OSHA’s staff is unable to conduct an on-site inspection for every compliant. Complaints are not handled on a first come, first served basis. Instead they are handled based on the severity of the hazard and the number of workers that are affected.

Top Priorities for Complaints

  1. Imminent danger situations where workers are at an immediate risk of death or physical harm
  2. Incidents involving fatalities or catastrophes, IE accidents resulting in death, or hospitalization of at least three workers
  3. All remaining employee complaints or referrals that do not fit the qualifications above

Before filing a complaint, it is helpful to know what OSHA classifies as a serious hazard.

Serious Hazards at Job Sites Include:

  • Fall Protection
  • Respirator Protection
  • Hearing Conservation
  • Arc and Welding Cutting
  • Cave-In Prevention
  • Missing Guards on Machines
  • Confined Space Entry
  • Exposure Prevention from Asbestos and Other Dangerous Substances
  • Ready Availability of Necessary Personal Protective Equipment

What Happens During and After an Inspection?

During an inspection an OSHA inspector will meet with multiple employees to discuss safety and health conditions. When meeting with the inspector, feel free to highlight any hazards as well as illnesses or injuries caused by the hazards, discuss past hazard complaints, and highlight any conditions that are out of the ordinary during the inspection. Employees may meet with the inspector privately and may also attend meetings with the inspector either before or after the inspection is complete.

Following an inspection, the inspector will meet with the employee who filed the complaint, as well as the employer, to discuss findings and solutions to any violations. Citations will be issued by the OSHA area director and will include actions that must be taken as well as date when actions must be complete. The employer must post a copy of the citation where it is visible to employees, and should list whether the offense was serious, willful, or repeat. If employees wish to contest the citations, they must do so with OSHA within 15 days of posting.

For more information about OSHA or to look up your regional office, visit .

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