Employee Responsibilities and Rights | OSHA

Although OSHA does not cite employees for violations of their responsibilities, each employee "shall comply with all occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued under the Act" that are applicable. Employee responsibilities and rights in states with their own occupational safety and health programs are generally the same as for workers in federal OSHA states.


As an employee, you should:

  • Read the OSHA poster at the jobsite.

  • Comply with all applicable OSHA standards.

  • Follow all employer safety and health rules and regulations, and wear or use prescribed protective equipment while engaged in work.

  • Report hazardous conditions to the supervisor.

  • Report any job-related injury or illness to the employer, and seek treatment promptly.

  • Cooperate with the OSHA compliance officer conducting an inspection if he or she inquires about safety and health conditions in your workplace.

  • Exercise your rights under the Act in a responsible manner.

11(c) Rights: Protection for using Rights

Employees have a right to seek safety and health on the job without fear of punishment. That right is spelled out in Section 11(c) of the Act.

The law says employers shall not punish or discriminate against workers for exercising rights such as:

  • Complaining to an employer, union, OSHA or any other government agency about job safety and health hazards.

  • Filing safety or health grievances.

  • Participating on a workplace safety and health committee or in union activities concerning job safety and health.

  • Participating in OSHA inspections, conferences, hearings or other OSHA-related activities.

Discrimination for using Rights

If an employee is exercising these or other OSHA rights, the employer is not allowed to discriminate against that worker in any way, such as through firing, demotion, taking away seniority or other earned benefits, transferring the worker to an undesirable job or shift, or threatening or harassing the worker.

If the employer has knowingly allowed the employee to do something in the past (such as leaving work early), he or she may be violating the law by punishing the worker for doing the same thing following a protest of hazardous conditions. If the employer knows that a number of workers are doing the same thing wrong, he or she cannot legally single out for punishment the worker who has taken part in safety and health activities.

Although there is nothing in the OSHA law that specifically gives an employee the right to refuse to perform an unsafe or unhealthful job assignment, OSHA's regulations, which have been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, provide that an employee may refuse to work when faced with an imminent danger of death or serious injury. The conditions necessary to justify a work refusal are very stringent, however, and a work refusal should be an action taken only as a last resort. If time permits, the unhealthful or unsafe condition should be reported to OSHA or another appropriate regulatory agency.

Workers believing that they have been punished for exercising safety and health rights must contact the nearest OSHA office within 30 days of the time they learn of the alleged discrimination. A representative of the employee's choosing can file the 11(c) complaint for the worker. Following a complaint, OSHA will contact the complainant and conduct an indepth interview to determine whether an investigation is necessary.

If evidence supports the conclusion that the employee has been punished for exercising safety and health rights, OSHA will ask the employer to restore that worker's job, earnings, and benefits. If the employer declines to enter into a voluntary settlement, OSHA may take the employer to court. In such cases, an attorney of the Department of Labor will conduct litigation on behalf of the employee to obtain this relief.

Section 405 of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA) was enacted on January 6, 1983, and provides protection from reprisal by employers for truckers and certain other employees in the trucking industry involved in activity related to interstate commercial motor vehicle safety and health. Secretary of Labor's Order No. 9-83 (48 FR 35736, August 5, 1983) delegated to the Assistant Secretary of OSHA the authority to investigate and to issue findings and preliminary orders under Section 405.

Employees who believe they have been discriminated against for exercising their rights under Section 405 can file a complaint with OSHA within 180 days of the incident. The Secretary will then investigate the complaint, and within 60 days after it was filed, issue findings as to whether there is a reason to believe Section 405 has been violated.

If the Secretary finds that a complaint has merit, he/she also will issue an order requiring, where appropriate, abatement of the violation, reinstatement with back pay and related compensation, payment of compensatory damages, and the payment of the employee's expenses in bringing the complaint. Either the employee or employer may object to the findings. If no objection is filed within 30 days, the findings and order are final. However, if a timely filed objection is made, the objecting party is entitled to a hearing on the objection before an Administrative Law Judge of the Department of Labor.

Within 120 days of the hearing the Secretary will issue a final order. A party aggrieved by the final order may seek judicial review in a court of appeals within 60 days of the final order.

The following activities of truckers and certain employees involved in interstate commercial motor vehicle operation are protected under Section 405:

  • Filing of safety or health complaints with OSHA or other regulatory agency relating to a violation of a commercial motor vehicle safety rule, regulation, standard, or order.

  • Instituting or causing to be instituted any proceedings relating to a violation of a commercial motor vehicle safety rule, regulation, standard, or order.

  • Testifying in any such proceedings relating to the above items.

  • Refusing to operate a vehicle when such operation constitutes a violation of any federal rules, regulations, standards or orders applicable to commercial motor vehicle safety or health; or because of the employee's reasonable apprehension of serious injury to himself or the public due to the unsafe condition of the equipment.

Complaints under Section 405 are filed in the same manner as complaints under 11(c). The filing period for Section 405 is 180 days from the alleged discrimination, rather than 30 days as under Section 11(c).

The worker does not have to complete any forms. An OSHA staff member will complete the forms, asking what happened and who was involved.

Following a complaint, OSHA investigates. If an employee has been illegally punished for exercising safety and health rights, OSHA asks the employer to restore that worker's job earning and benefits. If necessary, and if it can prove discrimination, OSHA takes the employer to court. In such cases the worker does not pay any legal fees.

If a state agency has an OSHA-approved state program, employees may file their complaint with either federal OSHA or the state agency under its laws.

Other Rights

As an employee, you have the right to:

  • Review copies of appropriate OSHA standards, rules, regulations and requirements that the employer should have available at the workplace.

  • Request information from your employer on safety and health hazards in the area, on precautions that may be taken, and on procedures to be followed if an employee is involved in an accident or is exposed to toxic substances.

  • Receive adequate training and information on workplace safety and health hazards.

  • Request the OSHA area director to conduct an inspection if you believe hazardous conditions or violations of standards exist in your workplace.

  • Have your name withheld from your employer, upon request to OSHA, if you file a written and signed complaint.

  • Be advised of OSHA actions regarding your complaint and have an informal review, if requested, of any decision not to inspect or to issue a citation.

  • Have your authorized employee representative accompany the OSHA compliance officer during the inspection tour.

  • Respond to questions from the OSHA compliance officer, particularly if there is no authorized employee representative accompanying the compliance officer.

  • Observe any monitoring or measuring of hazardous materials and have the right to see these records, as specified under the Act.

  • Have your authorized representative, or yourself, review the Log and Summary of Occupational Injuries (OSHA 200 or OSHA 300/300A) at a reasonable time and in a reasonable manner.

  • Request a closing discussion with the compliance officer following an inspection.

  • Submit a written request to NIOSH for information on whether any substance in your workplace has potentially toxic effects in the concentration being used, and have your name withheld from your employer if you so request.

  • Object to the abatement period set in the citation issued to your employer by writing to the OSHA area director within 15 working days of the issuance of the citation.

  • Be notified by your employer if he or she applies for a variance from an OSHA standard, and testify at a variance hearing and appeal the final decision.

  • Submit information or comment to OSHA on the issuance, modification, or revocation of OSHA standards and request a public hearing.


john said...

I'd say that as a company or organization, it is their responsibility in helping to ensure their workers have safety training such as the 10 hour or the 30 hr osha training course. Even though not all States requires this certification, a lot of companies still likes their workers certified as this helps ensure that you have the cream of the crop for your man power. If people are properly educated with their roles, they will be more productive and knowledge in a workplace definitely avoids a lot of accidents.

seo.gopinath said...

contesting osha citations We are passionate about helping our clients maintain their compliance with safety and environmental regulations. We know know you don't have the time nor environmental compliance training

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