The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) was passed to prevent workers from being killed or seriously harmed at work. This law created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which sets and enforces protective workplace safety and health standards. OSHA also provides information, training, and assistance to employers and workers. Under the OSH Act, employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. Employers must provide a workplace that does not have serious hazards and must follow all OSHA safety and health standards.
OSHA safety and health standards are rules that describe the methods employers are legally required to follow to protect their workers from hazards. To enact a standard, OSHA must show that a significant risk to workers exists and that there are feasible measures employers can take to protect their workers from such risks.
Construction, General Industry, Maritime, and Agriculture standards protect workers from a wide range of serious hazards. These standards limit the amount of hazardous chemicals workers can be exposed to, require the use of certain safe practices and equipment, and require employers to monitor certain workplace hazards.
Examples of OSHA standards include requirements for employers to:
- provide fall protection;
- prevent trenching cave-ins;
- prevent exposure to some infectious diseases;
- ensure the safety of workers who enter confined spaces;
- prevent exposure to harmful chemicals;
- put guards on dangerous machines;
- provide respirators or other safety equipment; and
- provide training for certain dangerous jobs in a language and vocabulary workers can understand.
Filing an OSHA Complaint
If you notice a potential hazard in your workplace, you should always notify a supervisor or employer. This is usually the best and fastest way to get a hazard corrected. If your employer refuses to listen to your concerns or take measures to correct the hazard, it may be time to involve OSHA in the matter. Workers and/or their representatives may file a complaint and ask OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or if their employer is not following OSHA standards. If you ask to remain anonymous, OSHA will not release your name to your employer. It is against the OSH Act for an employer to fire, demote, transfer or discriminate in any way against a worker for filing a complaint or exercising other OSHA rights.
You can file a complaint online; but the most effective way to file is to download the form, and mail or fax it to the nearest OSHA office. You can also make a verbal complaint at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). If you need help filing an OSHA Complaint or are concerned about a potential workplace hazard, please contact our Compliance Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (240) 695-9463, ext. 4218.
Written, signed complaints submitted to OSHA area offices are more likely to result in an on-site OSHA inspection. Most verbal, online, or unsigned complaints are resolved informally over the phone with the employer.
If an OSHA inspector visits the job for an on-site inspection, workers have the right to participate in the inspection and speak privately with the inspector. An inspector who finds violations of OSHA standards or serious hazards may issue citations and fines. A citation includes proposed corrective actions and the date by when the corrective actions must be completed. Workers only have the right to challenge the deadline for corrective action; however, the employer has the right to contest any part of the citation.
See OSHA’s Workers’ Rights page for more information.