Tuesday, July 17, 2012

FRA and OSHA sign agreement to protect railroad workers from retaliation

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) signed an agreement to improve coordination between the two agencies in enforcing the whistleblower provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA).

The FRSA protects employees from retaliation when they report safety violations to the government or report work-related personal injuries or illnesses.

"Safety is our highest priority and this agreement is an important step in providing protections for those who report unsafe conditions," said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo. "Establishing a formal process for safeguarding the rights of employees who report safety violations is critical to maintaining workplace safety and fostering strong safety cultures."

Under the agreement, FRA will refer railroad employees who complain of alleged discrimination to OSHA and OSHA will share copies of the complaints it receives with FRA. OSHA will also share any findings and preliminary orders that OSHA issues. The agencies will work together to develop training for FRA on how to handle complaints of retaliation and to assist OSHA enforcement staff in recognizing potential violations of railroad safety regulations revealed during whistleblower complaint investigations.

FRA and OSHA sent a joint letter to railroad and transportation associations expressing their commitment to work together to ensure that injury reporting is as accurate and consistent as possible. The letter highlights an increase in railroad injury/incident reporting in recent years and provides concrete ways that the associations' member organizations can improve the safety of their workplaces and improve their compliance with federal regulations.

Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights, including fact sheets with information on how to file a complaint with OSHA, is available online at www.whistleblowers.gov.

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