Filing a Complaint
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives employees the right to
file complaints about workplace safety and health hazards. Further, the Act
gives complainants the right to request that their names not be revealed to
their employers. Complaints from employees and their representatives are taken
seriously by OSHA.
If you would like to report hazards at your worksite to OSHA, or you have
been discriminated against on the basis of safety and health issues, choose
one of the following:
* File a complaint, online if you believe your working conditions are unsafe
or unhealthful. (Note: Most online complaints are addressed by OSHA's phone/fax
system. That means they may be resolved informally over the phone with your
employer. Written, signed complaints submitted to OSHA Area or State Plan
offices are more likely to result in onsite OSHA inspections; see complaint
handling process. Complaints from workers in OSHA-approved state plan states
will be forwarded to the appropriate state plan for response.) If you are
concerned about confidentiality, you may prefer to file your complaint from
your home computer or a computer in your local library.
* Download the OSHA complaint form, complete it and then fax or mail it to
your local OSHA Regional Office or you may simply contact your local OSHA
office to receive a copy of the complaint form. Be sure to include your name,
address and telephone number so we can contact you.
NOTE: In order to view and print the complaint form, you must have the Adobe
Acrobat Reader on your computer.
* Telephone your local OSHA Regional Office. OSHA staff can discuss your complaint
and respond to any questions you have.
* File a discrimination complaint if your employer has punished you for exercising
any employee rights established under the OSH Act or for refusing to work
when faced with an imminent danger of death or serious injury and there is
insufficient time for OSHA to inspect. You can file a complaint by calling
your local OSHA Regional Office. In states with approved state plans, employees
may file a complaint with both the State and Federal OSHA.
* If there is an emergency or the hazard is immediately life-threatening,
call your local OSHA Regional Office or 1-800-321-OSHA.
For more information on filing a complaint, see the following:
When can a complaint be filed?
Who can complain?
What information must the employee give?
How does OSHA respond to complaints?
What happens in states operating approved safety and health programs?
When Can a Complaint Be Filed?
OSHA recommends that employees try to resolve safety and health issues first
by reporting them to their supervisors, managers or the safety and health
committee. At any time, however, employees can complain to their local OSHA
Regional Office and ask for an inspection or an investigation. (Complaints
to federal OSHA from workers in states with OSHA-approved state plans will
be forwarded to the appropriate state plan for response.)
Who Can Complain?
Employees or their representatives have a right to request an inspection of
a workplace if they believe there is a violation of a safety or health standard,
or if there is any danger that threatens physical harm, or if an "imminent
danger" exists. Anyone who knows about a workplace safety or health hazard
may complain, and OSHA will investigate the concerns reported.
What Information Must the Employee Provide?
Employees or their representatives must provide enough information for OSHA
to determine that a hazard probably exists. Workers do not have to know whether
a specific OSHA standard has been violated in order to file a complaint.
Because it is important to give as much complete and accurate information
as possible about an alleged hazard, answers to the following types of questions
may be useful:
* How many employees work at the site and how many are exposed to the hazard?
* How and when are workers exposed?
* What work is performed in the unsafe or unhealthful area?
* What type of equipment is used? Is it in good condition?
* What materials and/or chemicals are used?
* Have employees been informed or trained regarding hazardous conditions?
* What process and/or operation is involved?
* What kinds of work are done nearby?
* How often and for how long do employees work at the task that leads to their
* How long (to your knowledge) has the condition existed?
* Have any attempts been made to correct the problem?
* How many shifts work in the area and what times do they start? On what shifts
does the hazard exist?
* What personal protective equipment is required by the employer? Is the equipment
used by the employees?
* Has anyone been injured or made ill as a result of this problem?
* Have there been any "near-miss" incidents?
The following are some additional specific questions for health hazards:
* Has the employer conducted any tests to determine if employees are exposed
to the hazardous condition or substance?
* What are these tests and the results of the tests?
* What steps has the employer taken, if any, to control the hazard?
* Do any employees have any symptoms that they think are caused by the hazardous
condition or substance?
* Have any employees been treated by a doctor for a work-related disease or
condition? What was it?
(Note: It is not necessary to have the answers to all the questions in order
to file a complaint. The list is provided here as a guide.)
How does federal OSHA Respond to Complaints?
There are two ways that OSHA can respond to a complaint. OSHA can either perform
an on-site inspection or an off-site investigation, also known as a "phone/fax
Although every worker has a right to receive an onsite inspection if certain
conditions are met, there are times when a phone/fax (or letter) investigation
may be a better alternative. OSHA responds more quickly to lower priority
hazards using a phone/fax approach. This enables the agency to concentrate
resources on the most serious workplace hazards. Employees who request a phone/fax
investigation do not give up the right to request an on-site inspection of
potential violations and hazards if they are not satisfied with the investigation.
Workers should call their nearest OSHA Area Office to discuss their options.
If an off-site investigation is appropriate, the agency telephones the employer,
describes the alleged hazards and then follows up with a fax or letter. The
employer must respond in writing within five days, identifying any problems
found and noting corrective actions taken or planned. If the response is adequate,
OSHA generally will not conduct an inspection. The employee or employee representative
who filed the original complaint will receive a copy of the employer's response
and, if still not satisfied, may then request an on-site inspection.
If the employee or employee representative files a written complaint that
meets certain conditions described in OSHA Directive CPL 2.115, or a state
plan's equivalent procedures, then OSHA may conduct an on-site inspection.
Those conditions include claims of serious physical harm that have already
resulted in disabling injuries or illnesses or claims of imminent danger situations;
written, signed complaints requesting inspections; and situations where the
employer provided an inadequate response to a phone/fax investigation.
What happens in states operating approved safety and health programs?
States with OSHA-approved state plans provide the same protections to workers
as federal OSHA, although they may follow slightly different complaint processing
procedures. There are currently 22 states and jurisdictions operating OSHA-approved
state occupational safety and health programs that cover both the private-sector
and state and local government authorities. Four other states operate approved
state plans that cover state and local government employees only.