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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 reflect new realignment terminology and to clarify policy and procedures related to allegations of reprisal.

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 752.3, 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.  Local managers shall establish informal processes to report unsafe or unhealthful conditions and ensure appropriate corrective action.

B.  All levels of management shall ensure that employees are informed on how to report unsafe or unhealthful conditions.  The methods of hazard reporting within the USGS are listed below in 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)  Regional Safety Manager for regional reports and the Occupational Safety Health Management Branch (OSHMB) National Programs Section Chief for mission area and office reports.

(5)  Reports not resolved at the regional or mission area or office level will be reported to the Bureau Occupational Safety and Health Manager. 

(6)  In the case of imminent danger, employees or their representatives should make reports to the line supervisor or local management by the most expeditious means available and follow up with documentation within the Inspection and Abatement System (IAS).  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. 

(7)  Imminent danger conditions will be investigated by managers and supervisors within 24 hours, potentially serious conditions investigated within 3 working days, and other hazardous conditions investigated within 20 working days.

4.  Formal Employee Reports of Unsafe or Unhealthful Conditions.

A.  Formal reports may be submitted online using the Department of the Interior Safety Management Information System (SMIS) or through use of Form 9-3074, USGS Unsafe or Unhealthful Condition Report, available in SharePoint Webforms and depicted in Appendix A.

B.  When Form 9-3074 is used, the report should be submitted directly to local management and the CDSPC.  The CDSPC ensures that pertinent data from the form is documented within the IAS.  A control number shall be assigned (designated by the first four characters of the organization code, fiscal year, and report number [for example, 3110-15-01]) for reports using Form 9-3074.

C.  Both SMIS and Web forms reporting tools and the Form 9-3074 allow employees the opportunity to remain anonymous.  Anonymous reports shall be investigated in the same manner as signed reports.  Employees submitting signed reports that request anonymity will have their identities kept confidential to anyone other than those authorized by the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act.

D.  Information from an online report of an unsafe or unhealthful condition is automatically entered into the IAS.  The CDSPC is responsible for working with local managers to determine if the reported condition is valid and to abate valid conditions.  All reports shall be tracked until resolved.  (See 29 CFR 1960.30.)

E.  Upon investigation of the 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 Form 9-3074 or the unsafe condition report within the IAS. 

F.  The responsible management official shall send a written reply to the originator (if known) of the report within 10 working days of receipt of report.  This message will notify the originator of the abatement action if the condition is valid.  Every effort will be made to resolve the concern of the employee to mutual satisfaction.  If the condition is investigated and found to be invalid, the originator (if known) shall also be notified citing the rationale for determining that it was not valid and providing the originator with appeal rights.

G.  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.

H.  Corrective action shall be verified by the respective Regional Safety Manager, OSHMB National Programs Section Chief, or Bureau OSH Program Manager.  Upon verification, the report is completed and closed on the local abatement log and a message sent to the originator to give notice of the closure by the local CDSPC.

I.  Forward unresolved employee requests for unsafe or unhealthful condition evaluations to the next higher level for investigation.  (Reports to supervisors are forwarded to the Regional Safety Manager.  Reports to the Regional Safety Managers are forwarded to OSHMB.)Anonymous or formal reports received by regional safety staff shall be forwarded to the local level for evaluation and corrective action.

J.  All Form 9-3074 reports shall be maintained in accordance with USGS records management requirements.  

5.  Appeals. 

A.  If management determines that a reported unsafe or unhealthful condition is not valid or if an employee believes the condition has not been abated, the employee or the employee’s representative may appeal to higher authorities, including the Departmental Designated Agency Safety and Health Official and the Secretary of Labor.  (See 29 CFR 1960.28.)

B.  Employee appeals shall be made by printing out a copy of the Form 9-3074 and sending it initially to the Regional Safety Manager or OSHMB National Programs Section Chief, as applicable based on the report’s origination within a region, mission area, or office.

C.  If the condition cannot be resolved at the region, mission area, or office, the appeal should be forwarded in sequential order to the Bureau OSH Program Manager and then to the Bureau Designated Agency Safety and Health Official for resolution.

D.  If the condition is not resolved at the Bureau level, the employee may submit an external appeal by sending the Form 9-3074 to the Director, Office of Occupational Health and Safety, at the Department of the Interior.  A copy of Form 9-3074 for all external appeals should be sent to the Bureau OSH Program Manager, OSHMB, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Mail Stop 246, Reston VA, 20192.

6.  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 752.3) 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 of Labor upon request.

D.  The OSH Council shall be kept advised of activity regarding allegations of reprisal and any determinations thereof.

7.  Responsibilities.

A.  Director.  Directs Unsafe Condition Reporting and Employee Allegations of Reprisal activities through the Designated Agency Safety and Health Official.

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 IAS unsafe or unhealthful reports are reviewed and communicated quarterly to the OSH Council, to include results of investigations.

F.  National Program Section and Regional Occupational Safety and Health Staff.

(1)  Review IAS electronic and hard copy 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.

G.  Managers and Supervisors.

(1)  Ensure that employees know how to report unsafe or unhealthful conditions using the SMIS Web portal and USGS Form 9-3074.

(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 Safety Manager or the National Programs Section Manager for discussion with the Contracting Officer’s Representative responsible for technical monitoring or administration of the contract.

H.  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 Safety Manager for regional imminent danger conditions or the National Programs Section Manager for mission area or office imminent danger conditions.

(3)  Coordinate with managers and supervisors to ensure that unsafe or unhealthful condition reports are investigated.

(4)  Maintain Form 9-3074 reports. 

I.  USGS Employees, Contract Employees or their Representatives, Students and Volunteers.  Report unsafe or unhealthful conditions to their supervisor.

Appendix A

/s/ Jose R. Aragon                                                                              November 19, 2015
______________________________________________                ________________
Jose R. Aragon                                                                                                           Date
Associate Director for Administration


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