COVID-19 whistleblowing

First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication

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New fact sheet from OSHA

Washington — A new fact sheet from OSHA details protections for employees who report workplace health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, and includes other relevant information for whistleblowers.

Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 contains anti-retaliation provisions for all employers except most federal, state and local government workers. U.S. Postal Service employees, however, are covered.

Activities related to COVID-19 that are protected include reporting an infection/exposure or unsafe condition to an employer or OSHA. The fact sheet provides examples of retaliation, including being fired or laid off.

OSHA notes that, under the OSH Act, the deadline for filing a retaliation complaint is 30 days after an employee “learns of the adverse action.” It also details what happens after a complaint is filed, what to do about a “dangerous situation” at work and what happens after a Section 11(c) investigation.

If an OSHA regional administrator dismisses the complaint, the employee may seek a review of the dismissal by the Directorate of Whistleblower Protection Programs by filing a request within 15 calendar days of receiving the dismissal letter.


McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

Please contact us today at 888-758-4757 to learn how we can provide mine safety training and consulting for your business.

Annual DOL OIG report outlines challenges for OSHA, MSHA

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Photo: Department of Labor Office of Inspector General
First published by Safety+Health an NSC publication.

Washington — The COVID-19 pandemic has “exacerbated” the challenges for OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration to use their resources to protect the safety and health of workers, according to the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.

In 2020 DOL Top Management and Performance Challenges, an annual report released Nov. 16, DOL OIG notes that the number of whistleblower complaints has increased during the pandemic while full-time staffing in the OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program has decreased.

MSHA, meanwhile, suspended five of its enforcement activities, including its “accident reduction program,” as of May. The agency also reduced its work in 13 areas, including mine emergency operations, but continued 15 activities at full capacity, including regular safety and health inspections and fatal incident investigations.

“MSHA needs to do more to address the potential backlog of suspended and reduced enforcement activities resulting from the pandemic and develop a plan to manage the backlog once full operations resume,” the report states. “Further, MSHA needs to monitor COVID-19 outbreaks at mines and use that information to determine whether to issue an emergency temporary standard related to the pandemic.”

The report also highlights OSHA’s difficulties in verifying that employers have abated hazards at general industry and construction worksites.

“OSHA needs to complete its initiatives to improve employer reporting of severe injuries and illnesses and enhance staff training on abatement verification, especially of smaller and transient construction employers,” DOL OIG states.

Other challenges noted in the report:

  • A 25-year high in black lung cases and the need to develop strategies to address it. MSHA is studying its August 2014 coal dust rule, but this analysis likely will take a decade or more to be completed, DOL OIG states.
  • Powered-haulage incidents, which accounted for nearly half of mining fatalities in 2017 and 2018. MSHA launched an initiative on the topic in 2018 that includes a website, videos, safety materials and mine-site visits.
  • Both agencies are challenged on how to regulate respirable crystalline silica. As noted in another report released the same day, OSHA and MSHA have different permissible exposure limits.

OSHA revised its National Emphasis Program on respirable silica in February and issued a revised directive for inspection procedures. DOL OIG notes that the agency conducted a webinar for inspectors on how to inspect for silica violations and enforce “various provisions of the new standards.”

“OIG is currently performing an audit to determine the extent OSHA has protected workers from exposure to respirable crystalline silica,” the report states.


McCraren Compliance assists employers in protecting their workers, starting with a comprehensive Work-site Analysis, Hazard Prevention, Controls, and Safety & Health Training.

OSHA moves public meeting on whistleblower program to phone

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Photo: mipan/iStock/Thinkstock

Washington — A public meeting planned by OSHA to gather information on key issues facing its Whistleblower Protection Program will now take place over the phone, the agency has announced.

According to a notice published in the April 14 Federal Register, the meeting is set for 1 p.m. Eastern on May 12. All participants must register separately by May 5. A phone number will be provided after registering.

OSHA enforces whistleblower protections under 23 statutes. To better understand how it can improve the program, OSHA is interested in input regarding:

  • How the agency can deliver better customer service.
  • The kind of assistance the agency can provide to help explain the whistleblower laws it enforces.
  • Where the agency’s outreach efforts should be targeted.

OSHA states it will try to accommodate everyone wishing to speak during the meeting. The agency also notes that the meeting will not be recorded or broadcast.

OSHA reminder: Workers have whistleblower rights during COVID-19 pandemic

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Photo: Michail_Petrov-96/iStockphoto

Washington — Retaliation against workers who report unsafe or unhealthy conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic is illegal, OSHA is reminding employers.

An April 8 press release from the agency lists forms of retaliation, including firings, demotions, denials of promotion or overtime, and reductions in pay or hours.

Workers can file whistleblower complaints with OSHA – online or via phone at (800) 321-6742 – if they believe their employer has retaliated against them. The agency protects whistleblowers under 23 statutes.

“Employees have the right to safe and healthy workplaces,” acting OSHA administrator Loren Sweatt said in the release. “Any worker who believes that their employer is retaliating against them for reporting unsafe working conditions should contact OSHA immediately.”

OSHA announces public meeting on whistleblower program

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Photo: mipan/iStock/Thinkstock

Washington — OSHA has scheduled a public meeting for May 12 to gather information on key issues facing its Whistleblower Protection Program.

According to a notice published in the March 13 Federal Register, the meeting is set for 1 p.m. Eastern at the agency’s headquarters in Washington.

To better understand how it can improve the program, OSHA is interested in input regarding:

  • How the agency can deliver better customer service.
  • The kind of assistance the agency can provide to help explain the whistleblower laws it enforces.
  • Where the agency’s outreach efforts should be targeted.

The deadline to register is April 28. Comments are due May 5.

OSHA enforces whistleblower protections under 23 statutes.

U.S. Department of Labor Redesigns OSHA’s Whistleblower Website

OSHA recently redesigned the Whistleblower Protection Program’s website. The streamlined design highlights important information for employers and employees on more than 20 statutes enforced by the agency. The new whistleblower homepage utilizes video to showcase the covered industries, which include the railroad, airline, and securities industries. The improved navigational structure allows visitors to easily access information on protected activities, filing deadlines, and resources.

U.S. Department of Labor to Hold Meeting to Solicit Public Input On OSH Act Whistleblower Protection Provision

OSHA will hold a meeting May 14, 2019, in Washington, D.C., to solicit public comments and suggestions from stakeholders on issues relating to whistleblower protection under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

This is the third in a series of meetings at which OSHA is seeking public input on how it can improve whistleblower customer service, and enhance public understanding of the whistleblower laws. Continue reading»