OSHA Memo Highlights Employer Actions That Discourage Injury Reports
OSHA Administrator Richard Fairfax has released a memo to guide whistle-blower investigators in regard to employer actions that discourage employees from reporting on-the-job injuries.
The memo tells OSHA regional administrators and whistleblower program managers to look out for potentially discriminating policies that employers may have towards employees who report such injuries, including
• Taking disciplinary action regardless of the injury’s circumstances.
• Disciplining an employee for not adhering to a company rule about the time or manner of reporting injuries and illnesses.
• Disciplining an employee for an injury that was the result of the employee’s violation of a safety rule.
• Providing incentives not to report injuries, including prizes to those who went through the previous year uninjured.
Fairfax noted that such policies could discourage injury reports and could be unlawful discrimination. He explained how to best investigate these kinds of policies and the factors to assess in determining if employees were discriminated against in these kinds of ways. Reporting injuries without fear of retaliation is key to a working environment that is safe and healthy, wrote Fairfax. If employees don’t feel like they can report injuries, “the entire workforce is at risk,” he said. And in such cases, “employers do not learn of and correct dangerous conditions that have resulted in injuries, and injured employees may not receive the proper medical attention, or the worker’s compensation benefits to which they are entitled.”
Retaliation toward an employee for reporting a work-related injury violates Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.