DOL Find Serious Problems with OSHA Whistleblower Program


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It appears as though the only test the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Hazard Association) Whistleblower program can pass is a test of its own. The Office of Inspector General from the Department of Labor and the Government Accounting Office gave terrible marks to the program. The Osha Whistleblowers Protection Program (OWPP) administers first stage investigations and initial rulings for 19 corporate whistle blower protection statutes. These reports seem to refute incumbent bureaucrats’ denials of any problems.

Tom Devine, Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project, stated very directly that “OSHA’s passive aggression against whistle blowers now has been confirmed by every outside study providing independent research.” This criticism stems from the fact that the OWPP, which is supposed to protect some 200 million workers, conducted federal investigations that missed basic steps like interviewing witnesses and rarely manages to reinstate whistle blowers.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and other reform groups have been calling for whistle blower protection to no longer be an OSHA responsibility. “Under OSHA, whistle blowers are like lambs led to slaughter,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, who pointed out that in the past decade the number of employees the program covers has increased immensely while the number of administrators has stayed the same. Ruch went on to say “The world’s largest whistle blower program can no longer remain a collateral function inside a dysfunctional bureaucracy; it needs a home of its own.”

The GAO mostly blamed OSHA management in general while DOL’s OIG report was much more specific about criticisms. The report examined 1,200 cases from the period 2009-2010 and found many problems including: 80% of whistle blower investigations flunked one or more standards in OSHA’s own Whistle blower Investigations Manual. While investigators can properly handle 6-8 open investigations at a time, they are being assigned up to 35. OSHA issued final rulings without conducting any face-to-face interviews in nearly half its “investigations” (46%). OSHA only found merit for 2% of retaliation complaints. No training is required for supervisors, and none in the four audited regions had completed the two courses required for investigators. Only 21% of cases settled prior to a ruling. Out of those, only 3% of employees went back to work and 13% received any financial compensation. There are no subject matter experts available to help with investigations of technical issues raised by corporate whistle blowers on issues including railroad safety, mass transit safety, consumer product safety, medical care and financial markets.

It would appear that whistleblowing, which is vital for the protection of the public, is still mostly unprotected.


Government Accountability Project



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