If you believe your workplace is unsafe because your employer has failed to comply with requirements set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), you might choose to report the violation to the authorities. Under both state of New Jersey and federal whistleblower laws, you cannot be fired for filing a complaint with OSHA, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. It’s important that you understand your rights and call an employment lawyer if you think you have been targeted for reporting a violation.
Common OSHA Violations
OSHA has a set of standards for all industries, and companies are required to meet or exceed the standards in order to keep their employees safe. The most common OSHA violations in 2020 were:
- Missing or substandard fall protection
- Unsatisfactory hazard communication
- Lack of respiratory protection
- Unsafe scaffolding
- Noncompliant ladders
- Poor lockout/tagout procedures
- Unsafe operation of forklifts
- Missing eye and face protection
- Lack of machine guarding or anchoring
Any one of these violations could lead to serious injury or death on the job. If these problems exist in your workplace, you should first talk to a supervisor or shift manager to make sure they are aware of the violation. If nothing is done about it, try to get coworkers on board with a group complaint and speak to your union rep if you have one. If nothing improves, you can contact OSHA directly with your complaint. OSHA will not reveal your identity unless it is essential to the case, but employers often have ways of finding out who complained.
What About COVID-19 Protocols?
This is an ever-evolving area of the law, but if you feel unsafe at work because your employer is not enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols such as complying with the vaccine mandate, requiring masks, and spacing workers out, you should talk to someone at OSHA about the latest requirements.
If You Get Fired After Reporting a Violation
No employer with an ounce of sense is going to tell you that you are being terminated because you reported an OSHA violation. Instead, they will drum up other reasons for letting you go. However, if you are fired after filing a complaint, it’s likely that you have a claim for damages against your employer for violating whistleblower laws. Contact New Jersey employment lawyer Frank Steinberg to discuss your specific case.