OSHA Worker's Page - How to File an Anonymous Complaint About A Safety Violation at Work

OSHA Worker's Page - How to File an Anonymous Complaint About A Safety Violation at WorkHow to File a Complaint with OSHA About a Safety Violation in the Workplace

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:

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. 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.

  1. Online - Use the Online Complaint Form  Submit your complaint online to OSHA 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. 

  2.  Fax/Mail/Email - Complete the OSHA Complaint Form [En Español], or Send a Letter Describing Your Complaint  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.  Download the OSHA complaint form,

  3. Complete the complaint form or letter, and then fax, mail, or email it back to your local OSHA office. Download the OSHA complaint form,

  4. Telephone - Call Your Local OSHA Office or 800-321-6742 (OSHA)  OSHA staff can discuss your complaint with you and respond to any questions you may have.

  5. In Person - Visit Your Local OSHA Office  OSHA staff can discuss your complaint with you and respond to any questions you may have.

  6. File a discrimination complaint if your employer has punished you for exercising employee rights 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.
  7. If there is an emergency or the hazard is immediately life-threatening, call your local OSHA Regional Office or 1-800-321-OSHA.

     

How to File a Whistleblower Complaint

You have the right to file a whistleblower complaint with OSHA if you believe your employer retaliated against you for exercising your rights as an employee under the whistleblower protection laws enforced by OSHA. In states with OSHA-approved State Plans, employees may file complaints with Federal OSHA and with the State Plan. See the Whistleblower Protection Program website to learn more.

  1. Online - Use the Online Whistleblower Complaint Form  Submit your complaint online to OSHA.

  2. Fax/Mail/Email - Complete the Online Whistleblower Complaint Form, or Send a Letter Describing Your Complaint  Fax, mail, or email either a letter describing your complaint or a printed copy of your completed Online Whistleblower Complaint Form to your local OSHA office. Please make sure that your correspondence includes your name, mailing address, email address, and telephone or fax number so we can contact you to follow up.

  3. Telephone - Call Your Local OSHA Office or 800-321-6742 (OSHA)  OSHA staff can discuss your complaint with you and respond to any questions you may have.

  4. In Person - Visit Your Local OSHA Office  OSHA staff can discuss your complaint with you and respond to any questions you may have.

Other Resources

Video: Filing a Complaint with OSHA
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Video: Know Your Rights
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Frequently Asked Questions about Worker Rights

  1. What should I do if there is a dangerous situation at work?
    If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, you may file a complaint with OSHA concerning a hazardous working condition at any time. If possible, bring the conditions to your employer's attention. If the condition clearly presents a risk of death or serious physical harm, there is not sufficient time for OSHA to inspect, and, where possible, a worker has brought the condition to the attention of the employer, the worker may have a legal right to refuse to work in a situation in which he or she would be exposed to the hazard. If you have questions about what to do, contact your local OSHA office. We will keep your information confidential. We are here to help you.
  2. 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.
  3. If my workplace is unsafe, what can I do?If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, we recommend that you bring the conditions to your employer's attention. At any time, a worker may file a complaint with OSHA to report a hazardous working condition and request an inspection. If the condition clearly presents a risk of death or serious physical harm and there is not enough time for OSHA to inspect, the worker may have a legal right to refuse to work.
  4. How can I get an OSHA inspector to my workplace to evaluate unsafe practices?
    The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 gives employees and their representatives the right to file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection 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.
  5. Who can file a complaint and what are the steps?
    Workers or their representatives may file a complaint online or by phone, mail, email or fax with the local OSHA office and 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. A worker may also ask OSHA not to reveal his or her name. In addition, anyone who knows about a workplace safety or health hazard may report unsafe conditions to OSHA, and OSHA will investigate the concerns reported.
  6. What should I do if I've been fired or punished for reporting safety or health concerns? If a worker believes an employer has retaliated against them for exercising their safety and health rights, they should contact their local OSHA office right away. 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 will accept a complaint in any language. Call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) or contact your local OSHA office.
  7. Has my employer ever been cited by OSHA?
    You can research your employer's inspection history through OSHA's establishment search. Type in the name of your company and choose the dates you want to cover.
  8. Can my employer stop me from seeing injury or illness records?
    No. Current and former employees, or their representatives, have the right to access injury and illness records. Employers must give the requester a copy of the relevant record(s) by the end of the next business day.
  9. What if I am injured on the job?
    If you are injured, call a supervisor for help. If the supervisor is not available, get medical assistance or call 911.
    All 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. [Employers under federal OSHA's jurisdiction were required to begin reporting by Jan. 1, 2015. Establishments in a state with a state-run OSHA program may have a different implementation date].
  10. Can someone file a complaint on my behalf?
    Yes, a compliant can be filed on your behalf by: an authorized representative of a labor organization or other employee bargaining unit; an attorney; any person acting as a bona fide representative, including members of the clergy, social workers, spouses and other family members; government officials or nonprofit groups; and organizations acting upon specific complaints and injuries from you or your coworkers. In addition, anyone who knows about a workplace safety or health hazard may report unsafe conditions to OSHA, and OSHA will investigate the concerns reported.
  11. What happens after I file a complaint?
    Each complaint is evaluated by OSHA to determine whether it should be handled as an off-site investigation or an on-site inspection. Written complaints (or filed online) that are signed by workers or their representative and submitted to an OSHA area or regional office are more likely to result in on-site OSHA inspections.
  12. What are my employers' responsibilities?
    Employers have the responsibility to provide a safe workplace. See a listing of employer responsibilities.What are my rights during an inspection?
    When the OSHA inspector arrives, workers and their representatives have the right to talk privately with the OSHA inspector before and after the inspection. A worker representative may also go along on the inspection. Where there is no union or employee representative, the OSHA inspector must talk confidentially with a reasonable number of workers during the course of the investigation.
  13. Does OSHA have other resources to help me?
    Each OSHA region has a labor liaison, whose job it is to maintain communication with organized and unorganized workers, Committees on Occupational Health and Safety, worker centers and coalitions, helping them navigate OSHA’s organizational structure or complaint procedures, and to assist them in developing and updating health and safety programs. You can contact them if you need help, if you want to establish a relationship between your group and OSHA, or if you want to establish or update a health and safety system in your workplace.
  14. Does my employer have to provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and who pays for it?
    Many OSHA standards require employers to provide personal protective equipment, when it is necessary to protect employees from job-related injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. With few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment when it is used to comply with OSHA standards. These typically include: hard hats, gloves, goggles, safety glasses, welding helmets and goggles, face shields, chemical protective equipment and fall protection equipment. For additional information on PPE, refer to OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment Web page.
  15. 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. (In states with OSHA-approved state plans, employee complaints should be filed with the designated state agency.)
  16. 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.
  17. 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. They only need a good-faith belief that dangerous conditions exist in their workplace.

Information you should have ready

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 23 states and jurisdictions operating OSHA-approved state occupational safety and health programs that cover both the private-sector and state and local government authorities. Two other states operate approved state plans that cover state and local government employees only. Complaints to federal OSHA from workers in states with OSHA-approved state plans will be forwarded to the appropriate state plan for response