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U.S. Geological Survey Manual

SM 445-2-H CHAPTER 8

Employee Reports of Unsafe Conditions and Allegations of Reprisal

Instruction:  This chapter is revised to clarify policy and procedures related to unsafe condition reporting.

1.  Purpose.  To specify requirements for investigating and resolving employee reports of unsafe or unhealthful conditions and allegations of reprisal.  

2.  References.

A.  Executive Order 12196, Section 1-201 (f) and (h).

B.  29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1960.28, Employee Reports of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions.

C.  29 CFR 1960.30, Abatement of unsafe or unhealthful working conditions.

D.  29 CFR 1960, Subpart G, Allegations or Reprisal (29 CFR 1960.46 and 1960.47).

E.  370 DM 771, Administrative Grievance Procedures.

3.  Informal (Verbal) Employee Reports of Unsafe or Unhealthful Conditions.

A.  All employees are encouraged to report unsafe or unhealthful conditions to help prevent accidents and injuries.  

B.  All levels of management shall ensure that employees are informed on how to report unsafe or unhealthful conditions in the following order of succession:

(1)  Line Supervisor.

(2)  Collateral Duty Safety Program Coordinator (CDSPC) or local safety committee.

(3)  Organizational Manager (Science/Cost Center Management Level).

(4)  In the case of imminent danger, employees or their representatives should make reports to the line supervisor, the CDSPC or organizational management by the most expeditious means available. Imminent danger refers to any condition or practice that could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm before normal abatement actions can be taken.

(5)  Imminent danger conditions will be investigated by line managers and/or the CDSPC within 24 hours, potentially serious conditions investigated within 3 working days, and other hazardous conditions investigated within 20 working days.

(6)  Organizational management should ensure informal unsafe or unhealthful condition reports are documented within the Department of the Interior Safety Management Information System (SMIS) to include the results of the investigation and actions taken to abate the condition.

4.  Formal Employee Reports of Unsafe or Unhealthful Conditions.

A.  Any employee may submit a formal report online using the DOI SMIS.

B.  Use of the SMIS allows employees the opportunity to request anonymity. Anonymous reports shall be investigated in the same manner as signed reports. Employees submitting anonymous reports will have their identities kept confidential to anyone other than those authorized by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, e.g. local, regional, or Bureau OSH staff.

C.  The CDSPC is responsible for working with line supervisors to determine if the reported condition is valid and to abate valid conditions. All reports shall be tracked by the CDSPC until resolved. (See 29 CFR 1960.30.) If more than 30 days is needed to abate the condition, the originator (if known) will be kept informed of the abatement status every 30 days until final abatement is achieved.

5.  Communication of the Unsafe or Unhealthful Condition.

A.  Upon investigation of any unsafe condition report and confirming validity of a hazardous condition, a written "Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Condition" (Notice) will be conspicuously posted at or near each location where a hazardous working condition exists until the condition is abated or for three working days, whichever is longer. If not practical, the Notice will be posted where it is readily observable by all affected employees. For USGS purposes, the Notice can be the posting of a print out of the SMIS Unsafe Condition Report depicting the condition, mitigation measures and proposed corrective action(s). Note: Reporting Employee and Supervisor Information shall be purged from the report prior to posting to ensure reporter anonymity.

B.  The CDSPC shall send a written reply to the originator (if known) of the report within 10 working days of receipt of report. This reply is in the form of an automated message within SMIS that notifies the originator of the CDSPC investigative results and planned or actual abatement action(s) if the condition is valid. Every effort will be made to resolve the concern of the employee to mutual satisfaction. If the condition determined to be invalid, the rationale shall be cited for making that determination in the reply to include originator appeal rights.

6.  Appeals.

A.  If management or the CDSPC determines that a reported unsafe or unhealthful condition is not valid and the employee believes the condition has not been abated, the employee or the employee’s representative may sequentially appeal to higher authorities using the following hierarchy:

(1)  Reports not satisfactorily resolved at the local level may be appealed to the respective Regional or Bureau full time safety manager.

(2)  Reports not satisfactorily resolved at the Regional level may be appealed to the Bureau OSH Program Manager.

(3)  Reports not satisfactorily resolved at the Bureau level may be appealed to the USGS Designated Agency Safety and Health Official (DASHO).

(4)  Reports not satisfactorily resolved at the Bureau level may be appealed to the DOI DASHO.

(5)  Reports not satisfactorily resolved at the DOI level may be appealed to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor. (See 29 CFR 1960.28.)

7.  Requirements for Handling Employee Allegations of Reprisal.

A.  An employee is not to be subjected to restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, or reprisal for filing a report of an unsafe or unhealthful working condition or for participating in Bureau OSH program activities.  All employees have these rights as detailed in section 19 of the OSH Act, Executive Order 12196, and 29 CFR 1960.  All employees also have the right to decline to perform his or her assigned task because of a reasonable belief that the task poses an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm coupled with insufficient time to seek effective redress through normal hazard reporting and abatement procedures established in accordance with 29 CFR 1960 and detailed within this chapter.

B.  Employee allegations of reprisal related to reporting potentially unsafe or unhealthful conditions will be handled through Administrative Grievance Procedures (370 DM 771.3) or appropriate collective-bargaining agreements.
C.  Copies of investigation findings for allegations of reprisal shall be provided to the Bureau OSH Program Manager.  A copy will also be provided to the Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor upon request.

D.  The Bureau DASHO and Bureau OSH Program Manager shall be kept advised of activity regarding allegations of reprisal and any determinations thereof.

8.  Responsibilities.

A.  Director.  Directs Unsafe Condition Reporting and Employee Allegations of Reprisal activities through the Bureau DASHO.

B.  Associate and Regional Directors.

(1)  Ensure that managers and supervisors are accountable for establishing, promoting, and investigating unsafe condition reporting procedures and allegation of reprisal requirements.

(2)  Ensure that financial resources are provided to abate validated unsafe conditions in a timely manner.

C.  Bureau Designated Agency Safety and Health Official.  Provides personnel and budgetary resources to facilitate reporting of unsafe conditions and allegations of reprisal.

D. Chief, Office of Management Services.

(1)  Assigns reporting of unsafe conditions and allegations of reprisal responsibilities to the Bureau OSH Program Manager for program management and administration.

(2)  Ensures that Office of Management Services staff has sufficient authority, resources, and qualifications to effectively support region, mission area, and office unsafe condition reporting and allegations of reprisal needs.

E.  Bureau Occupational Safety and Health Program Manager.

(1)  Establishes Bureau policy and program in conformance with 29 CFR 1960.

(2)  Ensures that SMIS unsafe or unhealthful reports are reviewed and communicated quarterly to the OSH Council, to include results of investigations.

F.  Servicing Employee/Labor Relations Specialist.

Provide advice, assistance and guidance to employees, supervisors, and managers on the Administrative Grievance Procedure or applicable negotiated grievance procedures.

G.  Regional or Bureau Occupational Safety and Health Staff.

(1)  Review SMIS electronic reports and coordinate as appropriate to ensure reports are addressed in accordance with the requirements of this chapter.

(2)  Ensure that chapter requirements are assessed during on-site external safety audits and program evaluations.

H.  Managers and Supervisors.

(1)  Ensure that employees know how to report informal and formal unsafe or unhealthful conditions inclusive of using the SMIS Web portal.

(2)  Ensure that no employee will be subjected to reprisal for reporting unsafe or unhealthful conditions or exercising his or her safety and health rights as described in paragraph 6A. 

(3)  Ensure that all complaints of unsafe or unhealthful conditions are investigated in accordance with the requirements of this chapter.

(4)  In cases of imminent danger, suspend operations until the hazard can be eliminated or controlled.

(5)  Immediately inform line managers and the CDSPC of all imminent danger conditions and subsequent abatement actions.

(6)  Inform employees who report unsafe or hazardous conditions on the status of planned and actual corrective action(s).

(7)  Send unsafe or hazardous condition reports related to contractor activities or operations to the respective Regional or Bureau OSH Manager for discussion with the Contracting Officer’s Representative responsible for technical monitoring or administration of the contract.

I.  Collateral Duty Safety Program Coordinators.

(1)  Assist managers and supervisors in establishing employee awareness and administering programs for reporting and abating unsafe or unhealthful conditions.

(2)  Immediately notify the respective Regional or Bureau OSH Manager of imminent danger conditions.

(3)  Coordinate with managers and supervisors to investigate and document unsafe or unhealthful condition reports and corrective actions within SMIS.

I.  USGS Employees, Contract Employees or their Representatives, Students and Volunteers.  Report informal and formal unsafe or unhealthful conditions to their supervisor as described within this chapter.

Appendix A

/s/ Roseann Gonzales                                                                          June 11, 2018
______________________________________________                ________________
Roseann Gonzales                                                                                   Date
Associate Director for Administration


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