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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.

Additional Information
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 exposure?
* 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 investigation."

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.