News Release USDL: 96-219
Thursday, June 6 1996
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151
New OSHA Complaint Policy Gets Results
Fast And Saves Resources
As part of President Clinton's effort to
reinvent government, the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration (OSHA) has adopted
new complaint investigation procedures that
will cut the time that it takes to respond to
worker complaints about workplace hazards
from 40 days to as little as five days.
Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational
Safety and Health Joseph A. Dear said, "Just
over a year ago President Clinton promised
working Americans and their employers a 'New
OSHA.' Our new complaint policy focusing on
phone and fax investigations coupled with
on-site inspections delivers on that promise.
"The policy is a triple win. Workers get
their complaints resolved quickly--in some
cases in our pilot test in less than 24 hours.
Employers get a chance to correct problems
and verify their actions without the threat
of possible penalties from an OSHA inspection.
And OSHA can better manage its resources by
inspecting only when necessary to get results,"
Under the new policy, when OSHA receives a
complaint, it will determine whether to
immediately inspect or investigate the alleged
hazards. If an investigation is appropriate,
the agency will telephone the employer, describe
the alleged hazards and follow up with a telefax
or a letter. The employer can respond in kind,
identifying any problems found and noting
corrective actions taken or planned. An
adequate response generally negates the need
for an inspection.
Dear stressed that the new policy was developed
through careful pilot testing, a critical aspect
of the agency's reinvention efforts. He said
OSHA is committed to experimenting with many
different strategies to meet its mission of
reducing injuries, illnesses and fatalities
across the nation. However, he emphasized that
OSHA intends to implement only those that offer
either greater protection to workers, easier
compliance for employers or more effective use
of OSHA's resources. He said the complaint
policy meets not just one, but all three of
Dear cited a "tremendous gap" between the
agency's mission, to make the 6 million American
workplaces as safe and healthful as possible for
more than 90 million workers, and the resources
available to do the job---about $305 million in
the current year. The new complaint policy, he
said, will help to close that gap.
The system was first pilot tested in OSHA area
offices in Cleveland, Ohio, and Peoria, Ill.
In Cleveland, the number of days it took to
process a complaint and to abate hazards dropped
from 39 to 9, and in Peoria, the days were
reduced from 23 to 5. Other OSHA area offices
later reported similar dramatic results.
Dear emphasized that "we will continue to
guarantee the right of employees and their
representatives to an on-site inspection of
violations or hazards. However, they will be
encouraged to attempt to resolve lower priority
complaints more swiftly through the phone/fax
Complaints about hazardous working conditions
should be reported to local OSHA offices or to
state OSHA programs. OSHA maintains a 24-hour
toll-free hotline--1-800-321-OSHA--for workers
to report imminent danger situations only.
Complaints reported to this number are relayed
to local offices for follow-up.
The 25 states and territories with their own
OSHA-approved occupational safety and health
programs are encouraged, but not required, to
adopt an identical or alternative complaint
The system is detailed in a compliance
directive, OSHA Instruction CPL 2.115, Complaint
Policies and Procedures. The directive will be
available on the Internet at http://www.osha.gov
under Other OSHA Documents, Directives, CPL 2.115.
This information also will be placed on an upcoming
issue of the OSHA-CD ROM. Single printed copies are
available by mail after June 14, 1996, to requestors
who send a self-addressed label to OSHA Publications,
P.O. Box 37535, Washington, D.C. 20013-7535. Telephone
(202) 219-4667, fax (202) 219-9266.
SUMMARY OF DIRECTIVE ON NEW COMPLAINT PROCESS
Complaints are no longer identified as "formal" or "informal."
Based on new criteria, complaints will now be classified as those
that result in investigations using telephone and telefax or similar means and
those that result in on-site inspections.
In a complaint investigation, OSHA will advise the employer
of the alleged hazards by telephone and telefax or by letter
if necessary (e-mail may be available in the future). The
employer is to provide a written response, and OSHA will
provide a copy of the response to the complainant.
If OSHA receives an adequate response and the complainant
does not dispute or object to the response, an on-site
inspection generally will not be conducted.
A complaint inspection is done at the worksite and the
complaint must meet one of the following criteria:
It is in writing and signed by a current employee or employee
representative and there are reasonable grounds to believe that a
violation of a safety or health standard or danger exists under the
requirements of the OSH Act.
It alleges that physical harm such as disabling injuries or
illnesses has occurred and it is believed the hazard still exists.
It is based on an allegation of an imminent danger situation.
It identifies a hazard or establishment covered by a local or
national emphasis program.
The employer fails to provide an adequate response to a complaint
or there is evidence that the employer's response is false or does not
adequately address the hazard.
The firm or establishment has a history of egregious, willful or
failure-to-abate citations within the area and within the last three years.
An OSHA 11(c) discrimination investigator requests a inspection
in response to an employee's allegation of discrimination for complaining
about safety or health conditions or for refusing to do an imminently
dangerous job or task.
If an inspection is scheduled or has begun at an establishment
and a complaint that normally would be investigated by phone/FAX is
received, the area office can schedule it for inspection as a
The complainant's identity will be withheld from the employer upon
the request of the complainant.