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

How 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:


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.)

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. They only need a good-faith belief that dangerous conditions exist in their workplace.

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:

The following are some additional specific questions for health hazards: (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

This page was updated on 23-Mar-2017