Recently, OSHA conducted meetings with representatives of both the trucking and railroad industries. The subject of the meeting was whistleblowing and the issues inherent in the practice. The meeting was attended by company representatives, union officials and industry association representatives. The meeting could affect whistleblowing procedures in the northeastern region of the transportation industry, including New Haven, Connecticut, New York and Washington, D.C.
Whistleblowing is the reporting of a health or safety issue to a regulatory agency. It may be made by a worker or another individual, often against the wishes of the company. A whistleblower is a normally protected by law for reporting a safety issue. The company cannot normally discharge or otherwise penalize the reporting party.
The concern among some attending the meeting is that while the number of complaints is increasing, the rate of success in acting on the complaints is low. In 2017, nearly 4 in 5 complaints received no decision from OSHA. Over 450 complaints were filed in 2017 in the trucking industry. The concern of workers is that complaints may not be receiving due attention by the agency. If so, the fears is that many workers will no longer go through the trouble of making a complaint.
Railroad workers expressed a concern over company retaliation for reporting unsafe situations. Some also complained that managers responsible for a safety violation are not held responsible by the company, even after a violation was found by OSHA. OSHA took over complaints related to railroads a little more than 10 years ago.
Whistleblowers can be vital in keeping the transportation industry a safe one. However, workers who file a report are often the target of retalitation despite laws to the contrary. Those who are the victims may wish to seek a prompt consultation with an experienced whistleblowing attorney to get a full understanding of their rights under the law.