The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently approved changes to how whistleblowers may file complaints against firms who violate any of twenty-two statutes related to safety and pollution. Previously, whistleblowers could only file complaints by writing to OSHA, calling a hotline, or calling an OSHA regional office. Now, whistleblowers can file complaints online, by using a simple form, which includes descriptions of allegedly retaliatory acts by the business. This seemingly minor change to modernize OSHA’s processes may have dramatic effects on businesses that must comply with OSHA regulations. By simplifying the filing process, many predict that the volume of whistleblower claims will grow dramatically.
How may this affect your business? Now that your employees can file claims online, they may be more likely to notify OSHA of potential violations than they were before. Therefore, you should consider revising your own internal processes regarding OSHA complaints to include these changes and the possibility of additional complaints filed against your business. Your supervisors should know how to respond if employees raise a complaint, and how they should respond to employees who actually file complaints. Even if the employee does not contact OSHA, you should proactively investigate any safety complaints. By actively investigating complaints, you decrease the likelihood of the employee seeking outside counsel because you do not seem interested in rectifying a safety concern. Make sure that your employees are current on all OSHA training requirements and safety regulations, and that the standards required by OSHA are followed. Taking these steps will help you identify and address potential OSHA violations, rectify safety concerns, and respond to employee complaints promptly.