Private businesses in Texas, like the rest of the country, must adhere to the workplace safety laws set in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, there are many regulations in place to provide a safe and healthy working environment for employees and to reduce the number of illnesses and injuries caused at work.
Whether or not a company adheres to the health and safety guidelines does not prevent any workers' compensation claims upon an episode of injury or illness. Violations might be used as evidence of neglect in the case of a lawsuit. Employees who feel that their employers violate OSHA guidelines have the right to file a report without the fear of retaliation from their employer. Violations might end with imprisonment along with fines and other civil punishments for those who willfully breach the guidelines, while employers that do so without knowledge will most likely just face a fine or other civil punishment.
According to OSHA, there is a certain procedure for employees who wish to file a health and safety complaint about their employer to follow. Workers have the right to be informed of the process, as well as have a representative involved in the inspections. The complaint may be handled anonymously for those who do not wish their employer to know about their complaint. Upon receipt of the complaint, OSHA will determine whether or not an on-site or off-site inspection is necessary.
Typically, an inspection will be on-site if an employer meets one of several criteria in place:
- An inspection is already scheduled
- Willful violations of OSHA guidelines in the past
- Part of an emphasis program
- Significant risk of physical harm
- Details in the report illustrate imminent danger
- Employer does not take sufficient action after a phone investigation
Complaints from employees are taken seriously but tend to have a low priority, and they are handled based on the severity of the situation. The top priority for OSHA is any situation that has a high risk of serious injuries or fatalities, often detailed as an imminent danger. The secondary priority is to investigate accidents involving three or more workers who ended up in the hospital or any fatalities.