Under the OSHA Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employees and their authorized representatives have the right to file complaints about serious hazards and further to request an OSHA official to visit and inspect their workplaces and investigate concerns.
Employers must comply with OSHA standards detailed in the act including the bloodborne pathogens standard, and they risk fines and penalties being levied against their business if they do not.
As professionals, one thing you want to ensure is the safety of the workplace. You must assess the risks and hazards in your workplace. While there will be a designated individual to perform formal risk assessments, everyone must be aware of hazards and reduce injury risk.
An example would be forklift operation. It involves massive pieces of equipment with several other moving parts and a lot of power. Although forklifts and powered moving devices make specific tasks manageable, there is still a great probability of injury and property damage if something goes wrong while operating a forklift. Proper training can reduce workplace injuries and fatalities while also minimizing financial losses from damaged goods. Forklift operators who handle this equipment without adequate training endanger both themselves and everybody else in the workplace and may make the employer susceptible to having an OSHA safety violation filed against them.
The OSHA Standards
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, otherwise known as OSHA, incorporates the right of employees and their authorized delegates to file complaints regarding severe hazards and then appeal for an OSHA official inspection of their workplaces and investigate the concerns.
Thus, employers must meet the OSHA standards specified in the act, which include forklift standards. When companies or employers fail to comply with the OSHA standards, they will have to deal with penalties and fines enforced on their firm.
This article will widen our knowledge on the fundamental principles of filing a complaint to OSHA.
OSHA has set standards for many safety areas and employers and employees must both comply with the rules and regulations detailed in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
The Act includes four main categories: Agriculture, construction, general industry, and maritime. When specifications about a particular hazard cannot be found in the standards documents, employers and employees must adhere to the fifth section of OSHA under subsection a1.
The OSHA General Duty Provision, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, mandates that each employee of employers must have a workplace that is free of identified hazards that are causing or are probable to cause death or profound physical injury to each of its employees.
employers "shall furnish . . . a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees".
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970
For all industries, three general requirements must be complied:
Medical Exposure Data Access: Employees, their representatives, and OSHA have the right to access their respective medical records.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Each of the four significant categories requires specifically different equipment, but regardless of industry, all workers are entitled to appropriate protective equipment to protect them from occupational hazards. In addition to that, there must be adequate training in the usage of their equipment. Specifically, in Forklift training standard, PPEs such as glasses for eye protection, hard hats for head protection, and safety gloves are essential.
- Hazard Communications: Product evaluations must be performed when an employee will be handling potentially dangerous materials. Hazardous materials must be classified, and employees must be provided with a Material Protection Data Sheet (MSDS). Employers should also train employees on the hazards of the materials listed on the MSDS sheet. In the Forklift field, an example of danger would be the possibility of falling loads from the truck, which could lead to severe traumas.
- Employers must report accident records from the previous year, even though there were no injuries. Furthermore, the Act requires individual companies to devise safety schemes under state law and shall be controlled. Though these companies have different programs, each one must be approved by OSHA. In practice, though, the most state plans closely resemble federal plans and, if anything, develop on them.
The states with OSHA-approved programs for the private and public sector are the following:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
On the other hand, the following are the places with OSHA-certified state programs for public sector workers only:
- New Jersey
- New York
Reporting Workplace Hazards
Each employee has the right to report a violation for any of the following serious hazards:
- Asbestos and other hazardous materials; exposure prevention
- Arc and welding cutting
- Fall protection
- Cave-in prevention
- Essential personal protective equipment must be readily available
- Insufficient knowledge of employees regarding safety regulations to protect themselves
- Lack of built-in safety features for sharp objects to prevent injuries
- Limited space entry
- Machines must have guards
- Respirator protection
- Hearing conservation
Visit the OSHA Law and Regulations page for more details on particular hazards that employees must be protected from.
Can I file a complaint to OSHA?
Almost all workers in the United States are covered by federal and state legislation, including but not limited to:
- Law and Medicine
- Local Government
- Organized labor
- Private Education
- Postal Service
- Anyone protected by the OSHA’s federal or state accepted safety and wellbeing plans.
The following professions are excluded from the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970:
- The Self-employed
- Farms employed by immediate family
- Occupations in which other federal laws require workplace protection, such as mining, nuclear energy, transportation and haulage, and weapons manufacturing.
- Employees of local and state governments, unless they are covered by an OSHA-approved state plan
Employees who have been subjected to a violation can file a health or safety complaint. More importantly, OSHA ensures the confidentiality of their identities. Thus, OSHA assures the protection of the employees who reported the violation. According to OSHA, the following are approved employee representatives who can file one on an employee’s behalf:
- Government Official
- Labor organization
- Member of the clergy
- Nonprofit organization
- Social worker
- Spouse or next of kin
File an OSHA complaint: Quick guide
Employees, representatives, and anyone else aware of serious health or safety violations in the workplace have several options to file an OSHA complaint.
Submit online via electronic complaint form
Telephone your local OSHA office or 1-800-321-OSHA
For more details about the type of information you must provide to file a complaint, see the OSHA complaint page.
Note: Signed and sent complaints to regional OSHA offices are more likely to result in OSHA inspections. Visit the OSHA complaint page for more information on the types of information you must submit in order to file a complaint.
When Can an OSHA Complaint be filed?
Before filing an OSHA complaint, try to settle your health and safety issue with your immediate supervisor or manager, as this is the most efficient and fastest way to rectify the concern.
OSHA acknowledges complaints at all times. However, for the discrimination complaints, those who filed a complaint must be submitted within 30 days of the supposed infringement.
Filing a Discrimination Compliant
OSHA forbids employers from retaliating against employees for filing a complaint. OSHA offers protection against the following unpermitted adverse actions:
- Failing to hire or rehire
- Making threats
- Reassignment that affects promotion prospects
- Reducing pay or hours
- Denying overtime or promotion
- Denying benefits
If you have been retaliated or discriminated against for filing an OSHA complaint about unsafe working conditions, you can file a discrimination complaint. Some states let workers file a complaint under the OSH Act with both the federal OSHA and state OSHA plans. Similarly, these complaints can be filed online, by fax or mail via downloaded form, by telephone call, or by sending a letter to your local OSHA office.
Employee rights during OSHA inspection
During an OSHA investigation, there are maintained rights by the employees. These are:
- The freedom of employees to speak with the inspector privately.
- Employees can attend pre- and post-inspection meetings with the inspector.
- An employee’s representative is authorized to be an accompany during the tour.
OSHA inspectors will probably discuss with several employees addressing the safety and health conditions. OSHA encourages employees to disclose each hazard issues, including the previous concerns. Thus, the inspector must be notified of unusual conditions during the investigation.
After OSHA Inspection
To review the observations and potential solutions, the inspector will be discussing with the employee and employer. For any violations, the OSHA area director releases citations and notifies employers of proposed charges. In the citation, there will be actions that must be taken on a deadline by which they must be completed in the citation. Employers must provide a copy of the citation for employees’ access, which may include information such as whether the crime was extreme, deliberate, or repeated.
Employees have the right to appeal the citations to OSHA within 15 days of the posting. Usually, there is a demand for a shorter period in addressing the issue. Also, Employers may dispute the citation’s validity.
State Specific Reporting
It is not only the federal laws that define the labor law violation but also, several states have supplementary labor regulations that cover employees who are working within state borders.
The Relevance of OSHA Training
A well-trained forklift operator understands how to run forklifts safely. They are also knowledgeable about the necessary standard safety requirements that should be observed before operating the forklift. If they find any problems with the forklift, they know how to deal with them before becoming a huge issue or cause an accident.
By investing in free OSHA forklift training, it can enhance your knowledge and safety advantages. Moreover, some sites offer free OSHA forklift online training. However, these providers can differ considerably. That is why you must select a trustworthy training provider whose course complies with the relevant forklift safety standards.
Every day, more states and industries make OSHA training compulsory. Free online OSHA training is the most cost-effective and efficient way to complete OSHA-approved training and gain an OSHA online certificate. Enroll online, complete the training at your own time, and then collect your OSHA certificates online by email.