In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known as OSHA. OSHA is part of the Department of Labor and their mission is to “ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.”
OSHA has jurisdiction over seven million worksites, inspecting workplaces to ensure compliance with health and safety standards. They focus their resources on hazardous workplaces in the following priority:
- Imminent danger situations, meaning hazards that could cause death or serious injury
- Severe injury or illness
- Worker complaints
- Referral of hazards from third parties
- Targeted inspections
- Follow-up inspections
When an OSHA inspector performs their inspection and finds violations, they may issue citations, penalties, and fines. Citations must describe the OSHA requirement violated, proposed penalties, and a deadline for correction. Violations are categorized as follows:
- Failure to abate
Generally, OSHA works with the employer to resolve the matter and correct or eliminate the hazard, as their goal is compliance over citations and penalties. Employers can also contest penalties or citations.
Regardless, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), OSHA violations and other incidents are a matter of public record – meaning anyone can access them whenever they want, as well as request full reports. This means that companies can no longer hide their numbers from the public.
How do I find a company’s OSHA record?
The FOIA allows the general public the right to request information from federal agencies, including OSHA. To search a company’s OSHA records, perform the following steps:
- Go to OSHA’s “Data & Statistics” page
- Click on “Establishment Search”
- Enter the company’s name, state, and date range you’d like to search
- Click “Submit”
You can also reach out to the Alabama OSHA offices to request information on violations and complaints:
- Birmingham Area Office
Medical Forum Building
950 22nd Street North, Room 1050
Birmingham, AL 35203
- Mobile Area Office
1141 Montlimar Drive, Suite 1006
Mobile, AL 36609
Under the Freedom of Information Act, OSHA has 20 days to process your request.
Are complaints and requests to OSHA confidential?
Yes; if you submit a complaint or request information about an OSHA incident, by law it must remain confidential. If you provide OSHA with your name, you can request that your identity not be disclosed to your employer and they are required to protect your identity. This may be especially important to you in the event you’re a worker reporting a dangerous or hazardous condition in your workplace. Keep in mind, though, it is against the law for an employer to retaliate against an employee for making a complaint to OSHA.
What are my rights as a worker?
As an employee, you have certain rights on the job, and safety is one of the most important. OSHA lays out these rights, as well as provides you a place to report violations without fear of retaliation. These rights include a workplace free of health and safety hazards. You also have the right to:
- “Receive workplace safety and health training in a language you understand
- Work on machines that are safe
- Receive required safety equipment, such as gloves or a harness and lifeline for falls
- Be protected from toxic chemicals
- Request an OSHA inspection, and speak to the inspector
- Report an injury or illness, and get copies of your medical records
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses
- See results of tests taken to find workplace hazards”
If you believe your workplace is unsafe, you can file a complaint with OSHA online, via mail, phone, or in person through the OSHA website. If you believe your employer retaliated against you for reporting an OSHA violation, OSHA also provides whistleblower complaint forms. However, we do advise speaking with a qualified attorney if this has happened to you.
If you’re injured by unsafe working conditions
In most cases when you’re injured on the job, workers’ compensation should cover medical expenses and reimburse you for lost wages. Depending on the severity of your injury, however, workers’ comp simply might not be enough. When an employer’s negligence in maintaining workplace safety is so great that it results in catastrophic injury, you may have a valid claim for damages outside of workers’ compensation – which can include pain and suffering and other damages.
The experienced legal team at Martin & Helms can help investigate the cause of your accident and injuries, look into the background of your employer, and find out if they are a repeat offender with myriad workplace safety violations. We can help determine what kind of injury claim to file and guide you toward the best possible avenue for your type of case. We’ve been helping the people of North Alabama for over 20 years, and we want to help you too.
Whether you’re concerned about an unsafe workplace or suffered injury on a dangerous worksite, the lawyers at Martin & Helms are here to help. Our Huntsville attorneys work to secure fair and proper compensation for your injuries, and walk you through every step of the legal process with knowledge and confidence. Call us today to schedule a consultation by calling 256-539-1990 or completing our contact form. We also have offices in Decatur, and proudly serve clients in Athens, Madison, and throughout North Alabama.