Safety concerns: ‘Killing the messenger’ backfires on company

by on May 3, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: Workplace Safety Network

It’s easy to feel that employees who complain about safety issues are a pain or even disloyal, especially if they take their grievances to OSHA.

But employers who let that feeling run away with them are likely to find themselves in trouble. That’s the lesson underscored by a suit DOL just filed on behalf of a safety whistleblower.

The employee, a school bus driver in Syracuse, NY, complained to management about safety issues, and was fired. The driver filed a retaliation charge, and OSHA tried to get the employer to reinstate the driver with back pay.

When that effort failed, the agency sued the employer, First Student, for reinstatement with back pay and interest plus compensatory and punitive damages.

Complaint channels
Workers have a right to complain to OSHA, but Safety Directors need to take steps to make sure workers will know that all feedback – negative and positive – is welcome.

What you can do: Tell workers they can bring safety complaints directly to you. They may be more at ease talking to a safety specialist than a line manager who could see the complaint as a personal attack, and react badly.

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