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How do workers file a federal safety complaint?

If you are working around asbestos and are exposed to the deadly fibers that infiltrate the lung tissue, you have options available to you to take legal action.

There are a couple of avenues open to workers who have exposures to asbestos, and one is to file a claim for workers' compensation when you become aware of any problems stemming from the contamination. You will need to notify your employer and initiate the claims process as soon as possible.

But there is another option for workers who have been exposed to asbestos, and that is to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

A federal act passed in 1970 gives workers and their representatives certain rights regarding workplace safety. They have the right to complain formally to OSHA and ask for the facilities to be inspected by an OSHA agent in cases where employers flout federal safety laws. Additionally, when serious hazards are present that could negatively impact the company's employees — such as an asbestos exposure — they may also contact the agency about their concerns.

It is not necessary for employees to know that a specific violation has occurred to file their complaints with OSHA, and they may alert the agency and keep their identity confidential.

However, filing a signed complaint is usually the quickest way to get an OSHA inspection of the facilities done. Online filings are also accepted. Complaints can be mailed or faxed to the local OSHA office having jurisdiction over the worksite.

Workers can also call OSHA and share their concerns with a staff member who will then make a determination on the matter. In cases of life-threatening emergencies, calling may be the best option for safety.

If you are harmed due to lax safety procedures on the job, you can also fight back legally with an attorney's assistance.

Source: Occupational Safety & Health Administration, "How to File a Safety and Health Complaint," accessed Feb. 12, 2016

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