Concepts and Procedures in Whistleblower Law

By Stephen M. Kohn | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
OSHA and Workplace Safety
Whistleblowing

INTRODUCTION

Many employees work on job sites in which they may be exposed to radioactive, toxic, and other unsafe substances or working conditions. Under a number of whistleblower protection laws, state statutory or common law, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and regulations of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), employees are protected from retaliation for exposing occupational hazards and reporting these hazards to the government, the press, or other authorities.1 These laws provide the right to request a health, safety, or radioactive monitoring inspection; the right to file safety and health grievances; the right to request information from the employer about safety and health hazards; the right to obtain individual radiation exposure data; and, in certain circumstances, the right to refuse unsafe or unhealthful work.2 Additionally, in certain industries, such as trucking and mining, special whistleblower laws exist that protect employees who expose or protest hazardous working conditions.3

The Department of Labor (DOL) enforces OSHA, the most comprehensive workplace safety law. In 1970, while enacting whistleblower protection in OSHA, "Congress recognized employees to be a valuable and knowledgeable source of information regarding work place safety and health hazards. Congress was aware of the shortage of federal and state occupational safety inspectors, and placed great reliance on employee assistance in enforcing the Act."4 The purpose, consistent with this legislative history was to, "assure so far as possible every working man and

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