Hurt at Work
Work Injury

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives employees and their representatives the right to file a complaint and request an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or their employer is not following OSHA standards. Workers do not have to know whether a specific OSHA standard has been violated in order to file a complaint.

If you are a Federal Employee or a Contractor and have sustained a work-related injury or illness, use ECOMP to report the incident to your supervisor. Employers must notify OSHA within 8 hours of a workplace fatality or within 24 hours of any work-related inpatient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an eye. If you are a Federal Employee, you may also file a claim for benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). Depending upon your agency, start by filing OSHA’s Form 301, then file a claim using either form CA-1 (for traumatic injury). After you have received an official FECA case number, you may also file form CA-7 (Claim for Compensation).

Am I Covered by OSHA?

  • Private Sector Workers: OSHA covers most private sector employers and workers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and other U.S. jurisdictions either directly through Federal OSHA or through an OSHA-approved state plan. State-run health and safety programs must be at least as effective as the Federal OSHA program. To find the contact information for the OSHA Federal or State Program office nearest you, see the Regional and Area Offices map.
  • State and Local Government Workers: Workers at state and local government agencies are not covered by Federal OSHA, but have OSH Act protections if they work in one of the states or territories that have an OSHA-approved state program.
  • Federal Government Workers: OSHA’s protection applies to all federal agencies. Federal agencies must have a safety and health program that meet the same standards as private employers. Although OSHA does not fine federal agencies, it does monitor these agencies and conducts federal workplace inspections in response to workers’ complaints.

How To File a Safety and Health Complaint

You (or your representative) have the right to file a confidential safety and health complaint and request an OSHA inspection of your workplace if you believe there is a serious hazard or if you think your employer is not following OSHA standards. You may file your complaint online, fax/mail/email the OSHA complaint form to your local OSHA office, call your local OSHA office or 800-321-6742 (OSHA), or in person at your local OSHA office. The complaint should be filed as soon as possible after noticing the hazard. A signed complaint is more likely to result in an onsite inspection.

How To File a Whistleblower Complaint

An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for exercising their rights under the Department of Labor’s whistleblower protection laws. Retaliation includes such actions as firing or laying off, demoting, denying overtime or promotion, or reducing pay or hours. Retaliation occurs when an employer (through a manager, supervisor, or administrator) fires an employee or takes any other type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity. An adverse action is an action that would dissuade a reasonable employee from raising a concern about a possible violation or engaging in other related protected activity. How to file a complaint online: OSHA online whistleblower complaint form. An employee may also file a whistleblower complaint with the same options as filing a safety and health complaint listed above. A whistleblower complaint must be filed with OSHA within 30 calendar days from when the retaliatory decision was made and communicated to the worker. OSHA conducts an interview with each complainant to determine the need for an investigation. If OSHA conducts an investigation, it will also obtain information from the employer and witnesses if needed. If the evidence supports the employee’s claim of retaliation, OSHA will take action that may include requiring the employer to restore the employee’s job, earnings, and benefits, as well as granting other appropriate relief.

What Is the Difference Between Filing a Safety and Health Complaint and Filing a Whistleblower Complaint?

A safety and health complaint relates to unsafe or unhealthful working conditions.  A safety and health complaint filed with OSHA may prompt an inspection of a workplace. If a safety and health complaint is filed with OSHA that includes an allegation of retaliation, that portion of the complaint will be referred to the Whistleblower Protection Program for possible investigation. A whistleblower complaint relates to alleged action taken against an employee in retaliation for engaging in activity protected by the whistleblower laws that OSHA enforces.

Employee Rights During an Inspection

Employees retain these rights during an OSHA investigation:

  • A representative of employees should be allowed to accompany the tour
  • Employees may speak with the inspector privately
  • Employees may attend meetings with the inspector before and after the inspection

An OSHA inspector will likely speak with several employees regarding safety and health conditions. OSHA encourages employees to mention hazards and any illnesses or injuries caused by them, to discuss past hazard complaints, and to inform the inspector if conditions during an inspection are not normal.

After an Inspection

The inspector will meet with the employee and employer to discuss findings and solutions to any found violations. The OSHA area director issues citations and notifications of proposed penalties to the employer for any violations. The citation will include actions that must be taken and a date they must be done. The employer must post a copy of the citation for employees to see, which can list if it was a serious, willful, or repeat offense. Employees have a right to contest the citations to OSHA within 15 days of the posting, usually asking for a shorter allotted time to correct the issue. Employers may also challenge the validation of the citation.

How Long Does OSHA Take To Investigate a Case?

OSHA has up to 6 months to issue citations once the initial inspection is completed. In most cases, citations will be mailed and issued within 1-2 months of the inspection.