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Tips to Follow When OSHA Calls You on an Employee Complaint

Ever hear of the OSHA complaint process? It's where employees - yes, even your employees - contact OSHA and level charges against their employers. Federal and state OSHA officials conducted 24,490 complaint/incident-related and 16,553 referral/follow-up inspections in fiscal year 2000.

OSHA handles many complaints via a phone/fax investigation, so when that phone call comes, followed by a fax, keep these steps in mind:

  • Don't panic. The only way to at least minimize your panic is to have a response plan already in place.
  • Go into action. Review the OSHA standards cited in the letter, investigate the allegations, determine the legitimacy of the complaint items, correct them or put the corrections in motion.
  • Act quickly. Draft your reply letter no later than three days after you receive the phone call and fax.
  • State the facts. Make no excuses. Do not raise the possibility of a disgruntled employee. Most importantly, ask NO questions, such as: "Will this satisfy the inquiry?"
  • Provide documentation. Collect an appropriate amount of supporting information (purchase orders, monitoring results, vendor/contractor contact information, photographs).
  • Show confidence. Close the letter by expressing your commitment to employee safety and health, and confidently stating what has been done to address the "allegations" contained in the complaint letter.
  • Guarantee delivery. Send the letter by Certified Mail with a receipt signature request, or by private courier.