How does an OSHA complaint work?

OSHA complaints can lead to investigations, which may result in penalties for offending employers.

Those who are frustrated with an employer who runs a work site in violation of federal health and safety standards have options. One option is to file a complaint with the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

How does someone file a complaint with OSHA?

There are a number of methods available to move forward with an official complaint. OSHA's website provides online, mailing or telephone options. The complaints are not only taken seriously but also kept confidential.

In some cases, the complaint will result in an OSHA investigation.

What happens if the complaint leads to an investigation?

Although the details will vary with each individual situation, the basics can best be explained through the story of a current case of a New York contractor that was the subject of an investigation after the agency received a complaint. During the investigation, it became clear that the site was in violation of a number of health and safety laws.

The case involved construction on a new high school. Part of the project required work in a 10-foot deep excavation site. Workers at the site were not adequately protected and faced the risk of having thousands of pounds of soil collapse upon them at anytime. Employers are required to follow federal trenching standards for work in any trench that is over five feet in depth. The standards were not met at this site.

The company was cited for a number of violations, including exposing employees to fall and explosion hazards, neglecting to train employees on the hazardous conditions present at the work site and failing to have mechanical retrieval equipment present and prepared for use in the case of an emergency.

What if there is an accident at a work site that results in injury to workers?

Unfortunately, not all workplace hazards are caught before the danger leads to a devastating accident. If this does happen, OSHA requires certain protocol be followed. If the injury was fatal, the federal agency must be contacted within eight hours. If the injury resulted in the hospitalization of the injured worker or an amputation, the agency must be notified within 24 hours.

Injured workers may find comfort in the fact that OSHA will review the details of the accident and hold their employer accountable for failing to keep their employees safe, but employees who are injured on-the-job can also seek benefits through a workers' compensation claim. Ideally, the application for benefits will be approved and benefits will be paid out to the injured worker promptly. In actuality, this is not always the case. It is not uncommon for the insurance company behind these benefits to downplay the severity of the injury or outright deny the claim for benefits.

In these situations, it is wise for the injured worker to seek legal counsel. An experienced construction worker injury attorney can review the details of the accident that led to your injury and build a case to better ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled.