OIG report criticizes OSHA's whistleblower program

October 7, 2010

OSHA has failed to ensure many whistleblower complaints receive adequate investigation, according to a new report (.pdf file) from the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.

Issued Sept. 30, the report examined whistleblower investigations under section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, and Surface Transportation Assistance Act for the 12-month period ending Oct. 31, 2009. Approximately 80 percent of investigations conducted during the audit period did not meet one or more of the eight essential elements of the investigative process, the report said.

Only 2 percent of cases were found to have merit. By contrast, 77 percent of whistleblower complaints were dismissed or withdrawn. Settlements accounted for 21 percent and were generally minimal.

OIG recommended OSHA:

  • Implement controls to monitor investigations and caseloads
  • Develop specific performance measures
  • Update the Whistleblower Investigations Manual
  • Designate experts with technical knowledge in specific whistleblower statutes
The report comes on the heels of a Government Accountability Office report (.pdf file) that found OSHA lacked sufficient internal controls to ensure whistleblower investigations follow certain standards.