According to a recent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Inspector General (IG)report, an estimated 80 percent of whistleblower investigations carried out by the agency in the 12-month period ending October 31, 2009, fell short of OSHA’s internal guidelines established in its Whistleblower Investigations Manual.
According to the report, OSHA commonly failed to (i) conduct face-to-face interviews or on-site investigations (not met in 46 percent of cases), (ii) obtain suggested witnesses from the complainant (not met in 44 percent of cases), (iii) document complainant witness interviews via signed statement or digital recording (not met in 38 percent of cases), and (iv) allow the complainant an opportunity to refute the employer’s defense (not met in 38 percent of cases). The report also found that OSHA’s investigation process “did not achieve national consistency . . . because regions were responsible for conducting their own audits with insufficient national oversight.”
The IG report recommends that OSHA (i) implement controls to ensure supervisors review all investigations, (ii) establish a system to ensure that agency policies are applied consistently across all regions, (iii) develop performance measures for the whistleblower program, and (iv) designate subject matter experts for technical assistance. According to press reports, OSHA is in the process of revising its manual to reflect many of the IG’s recommendations. See BNA Daily Environmental Report, October 12, 2010.