January 19, 2021
Safety in the workplace is more critical than ever in times of COVID-19. With businesses reopening in different states and cities across the country, security measures that help prevent the virus’s spread are crucial to mitigating risks.
When employers violate the rules, workers in the role of whistleblowers are often the best hope to bring violations to government authorities’ attention. To encourage people to come forward, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) protects employees who observe and report unsafe conditions in their workplaces, related to the pandemic or not.
Possible infractions can include:
- Companies that do not take reasonable steps to ensure cleanliness or distance between employees and customers
- Employers who do not provide adequate protective equipment
- Employers taking shortcuts in security measures due to less frequent inspections or lax regulations
- Businesses under closure orders that continue to operate and force workers to put themselves at risk
In addition to regulations that protect workers by enforcing compliance and safety rules in the workplace, OSHA includes provisions that protect workers who file complaints about safety and health conditions.
OSHA’s Whistleblower Protection Program also invokes anti-retaliation provisions from more than 20 industry-specific federal statutes. A variety of areas included are the commercial trucking industry, consumer products, environment, food safety, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipelines, public transportation agency, and rail and marine industries.
While you may file a complaint anonymously, OSHA may treat it as a non-employee complaint and assign it a lower priority. You can also give OSHA your name but ask that it not be disclosed to your employer.
COVID-19 has posed myriad challenges for all sectors. Employers have to move forward and make up for lost time as long as the necessary health and safety measures are considered. Otherwise, it will be your workers who will suffer the consequences, and the employer is very likely to face litigation from those who become preventably ill.