OSHA has recently issued Recommended Practices for Anti-Retaliation Programmes to assist employers in creating workplaces where workers do not feel uncomfortable in voicing their concerns for fear of retaliation or retribution. It is intended that these recommendations are applied to both private and public sector workers covered by the 22 whistleblower protection laws that are enforced by OSHA.
Adaptable to most places of work, employers may adjust the recommendations for variables including number of employees, the make-up of the workforce, as well as the type of work undertaken and the concepts may be used to enhance an existing programme of create a new one.
Five core elements to an effective anti-retaliation programme:
- Management leadership, commitment, and accountability
- System for listening to and resolving employees' safety and compliance concerns
- System for receiving and responding to reports of retaliation
- Anti-retaliation training for employees and managers
- Programme oversight
Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary of labour for occupational safety and health said:
"These recommended practices will provide companies with the tools to create a robust anti-retaliation program…In the long-run, it's good for workers and good for business."
Autumn 2016 saw an initial draft of the Recommended Practices posted for review and comment and the final document incorporates many of these findings which are linked below.
Brenig Moore, Technical Director at Astutis commented:
“In this day and age, employees ought to feel empowered to be able to raise concerns about security and health and safety issues. As with the High Reliability Organisation (HRO), a ‘Just Culture’ should pervade systems and operations leading to open lines of communication and staff empowerment. While I appreciate efficiency and reliability need to be balanced, a clear and defined accident and near-miss reporting system should be put in place within an organisation, and individual workers supported to be able to suspend work on safety or security grounds without fear of being penalised. The long-term benefits of such operating procedures will ultimately be felt by the business.”
The recommendations are advisory only. They do not interpret or create any legal obligations, or alter existing obligations created under OSHA’s standards or regulations.
OSHA enforces the whistleblower provisions of Section 11(c) of the OSH Act, and 21 other statutes protecting employees who report violations of various securities laws, trucking, airline, nuclear power, pipeline, environmental, rail, maritime, health care, workplace safety and health regulations, and consumer product safety laws.