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How to Report to Cal OSHA: Filing a Workplace Safety Complaint in California


Safety hazards are often prevalent in the workplace, whether you work in an office environment or perform manual labor. Did you know that over 12,085 workers' compensation claims have been filed in California so far this year? And this number is just growing by the day. Therefore, it is essential for all employees to understand how to report unsafe working conditions to Cal-OSHA. Knowing how to file a report could help save you and your coworkers from unnecessary, and even life-threatening injuries.

What is Cal-OSHA?

Cal-OSHA is the California branch of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Cal-OSHA is responsible for protecting both California employees and the public from safety hazards by enforcing California's workplace and public safety laws. California law protects employees who file a complaint with Cal-OSHA regarding occupational health or safety hazards. The complaint can even be anonymous to protect employees from employer retaliation.

What are examples of unsafe working conditions?

Before you file a report with Cal-OSHA, it's important to understand what constitutes an unsafe work environment. Some examples of common workplace hazards include chemical spills, frayed electrical cords, improperly maintained machinery, presence of black mold, climate conditions that are too hot or too cold, and even improperly adjusted chairs and workstations. This checklist from Cal-OSHA can help you identify these workplace hazards and others.

How to File a Workplace Safety Complaint with Cal-OSHA

An employee can file a complaint about hazardous working conditions by calling or e-mailing their district Cal-OSHA office. If you need to report to Cal-OSHA, follow these steps for filing a complaint:

1) Ensure you are covered by Cal-OSHA.

Cal-OSHA protects workers who are considered private employees, or state and local government employees. If you work in California, but you are employed by the federal government, you should report unsafe working conditions to the federal OSHA, not Cal-OSHA.

2) Indicate to Cal-OSHA your workplace type.

You will be able to choose from four categories: "adult film industry," "mine or tunnel," "process safety management," or "all other industries."

3) Gather as much information as possible about your employer and the hazardous working conditions.

Be prepared to include the following information when you file a complaint. The more complete your complaint is, the better:

  • Name, address, and telephone number of your employer/worksite
  • Type of business
  • Name and job title of the manager/supervisor working at your worksite
  • Your name, address, phone number, and email address
  • Description of the hazard (be as detailed as possible)
  • Specific location of the hazard if your worksite is large
  • Operations, equipment, machinery, and/or chemicals used at your worksite
  • Work tasks performed near the hazard
  • How often and how long at one time that these work tasks are performed
  • Number of work shifts, the time that each shift beings, and the shift when the hazard occurs
  • Number of employees who work at the worksite, number of employees who may be exposed to this hazard, and how close the employees are to the hazard
  • Employees who are injured or experiencing symptoms caused by the hazard and whether they have received medical treatment for injuries or symptoms related to the hazard
  • How long this hazard has existed, whether your employer is aware of the hazard, and whether your employer has tried to correct the hazard
  • How long you may expect that the hazard will continue to exist
  • The name and contact information of your employee bargaining unit representative (if you have one)

4) Wait for Cal-OSHA to investigate your complaint.

An investigation will be performed once Cal-OSHA receives your complaint and determines that it is valid. If you allege a serious violation, Cal-OSHA must open an investigation into your complaint within three days of receiving it. If it isn't a serious violation, California law allows Cal-OSHA to wait up to 14 days to open an investigation into your complaint. If your complaint claims an imminent hazard (one that could result in death or serious physical harm immediately), Cal-OSHA will give it priority to be investigated right away.

No one should have to work in a hazardous work environment and employers should be held accountable. If you or your coworkers are being subjected to unsafe working conditions or are retaliated against for reporting workplace hazards to Cal-OSHA, contact the California employment lawyers at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.

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