How Effective Are OSHA's Complaint Procedures?

HRD-79-48: Published: Apr 9, 1979. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1979.

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A review was made of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) and States' procedures for responding to complaints to determine if the agency and the States were making the best use of limited inspection resources and adequately protecting workers from workplace hazards.

Most complaints reviewed came from non-high-risk industry and did not appear to address serious hazards or involve violations of standards. Initial complaint information received was generally vague. Usually, such complaints were handled by a workplace inspection. All offices visited carried a backlog of health complaints. In many cases of potentially serious hazards, the timeliness and thoroughness of initial and followup investigations did not seem adequate.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend legislation to give OSHA authority to resolve formal complaints without inspections when the complaints do not involve potential hazards that can cause death or serious physical harm.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Labor should direct OSHA and the States to: develop criteria for screening safety and health complaints, using cross-trained inspectors to obtain the additional information needed to identify vague health complaints; try to resolve nonformal complaints considered less than serious by means other than a workplace inspection; develop procedures requiring that inspectors look for potentially serious hazards when visiting a worksite on a complaint, adequately documenting the scope and results of all inspections; and assure that timely inspections are made when the alleged hazards are potentially serious.

    Agency Affected:


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