If I work at a healthcare facility and see waste improperly stored or processed, can I do anything?
Speak up. Bring the issue to your supervisor or another person of authority. If your facility is big enough, it should have a designated waste manager or environmental specialist. People with responsibility for waste and with responsibility for workplace safety should both have an interest in making the situation right.
If there is no correction to your satisfaction, you can contact a regulatory agency. We recommend looking into the environmental regulators for your state, rather than the federal EPA. For workplace safety concerns, it is appropriate to contact the federal government (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) or your state equivalent. Not all states have their own agency for occupational safety and health. You can get to the state agencies through this webpage https://www.osha.gov/contactus/bystate
I’m not sure if the situation violates any rules. Can I ask an OSHA inspector to come out and check?
Yes, OSHA’s website has instructions for submitting a complaint. These complaints are confidential - OSHA will not tell your employer who filed the complaint - but OSHA encourages you to sign your name to the report. Anonymous reports are more likely to be ignored.
Does this mean an OSHA inspector will come out? Not necessarily. The more detail you provide (including photos) and the more serious the perceived hazard, the more likely you’ll see action.
Your state OSHA website (if there is one) may have instructions on how to report a violation.
The original 1970 law that set up OSHA gave workers or their representatives the right to file a complaint and request an inspection.
What if I am fired or demoted for raising safety concerns?
You may be protected by whistleblower laws, so that if you are punished for raising the issue with regulators, you will have a civil case against your employer. OSHA has an online form for complaining about putative action.
The EPA’s whistleblower page is at https://www.epa.gov/office-inspector-general/whistleblower-protection
Have there been OSHA violations of this location in the past?
OSHA’s website also has a way to check for past violations at establishments.