Whistleblower Protection, Underreporting of Accidents (& Non-Compliant Safety Incentive Plans), Repeat and Serious Violations

Whistleblower Protection – In 2014, the number of whistleblower complaints filed with OSHA jumped to over 3,000, a steady climb for the past ten years.  Employers should review their policies to proactively prevent retaliating against an employee for whistleblowing. http://www.whistleblowers.gov/whistleblower/wb_data_FY05-14.pdf.  Fines and penalties for whistleblowing are significant.  Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who raise various protected concerns or provide protected information to the employer or the government. Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for engaging in protected conduct may file a complaint with the secretary of labor.  More information is available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov/index.html.

Underreporting of Accidents and Safety Incentive Plans – Giving of safety awards for ‘no incidents/accidents’ is viewed by OSHA as contributing to the underreporting of workplace injuries and close calls.  We recommend that all safety awards be based upon implementation of proven loss control behaviors and policies such as safety meeting attendance, safety feedback, training, and inspections.

Willful and Serious Violations – Employers are responsible for taking the necessary precautions to protect workers’ health and safety. A willful violation is one committed with intentional knowing or voluntary disregard for the law’s requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health.  A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.