OSHA Issues Final Rule on Whistleblower Procedures for Pipeline Facilities

OSHA on April 8 published final procedures for handling whistleblower complaints under the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act of 2002.

OSHA issued interim final rules for the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act on April 5, 2004, and requested public comment. No substantive comments were received, according to OSHA, and the agency is re-publishing the interim final rule as a final rule.

Signed on Dec. 17, 2002, the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act applies to pipeline facilities that transport natural gas or hazardous liquids in interstate commerce. Provisions of the act prohibit pipeline operators from firing or taking adverse action against workers who report concerns about pipeline safety to either the employer or the government. Complainants have 180 days from the alleged discrimination to file with OSHA.

"The Pipeline Safety Improvement Act offers important safeguards to employees to encourage them to report safety concerns without fear of reprisal, and we are committed to following up on complaints of discrimination," Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Jonathan Snare said.

The final rule includes procedures for submitting complaints, conducting investigations and issuing findings and preliminary orders. This rule details litigation procedures and the process for objecting to findings and requesting a hearing. The final rule also contains provisions covering withdrawals of complaints and settlements along with judicial review and judicial enforcement.

Since PSIA took effect in 2002, OSHA has received five whistleblower complaints under the law. OSHA is responsible for investigating complaints of discrimination filed under 14 statutes, including the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act. Information on OSHA's responsibilities for enforcing whistleblower protection is available on the agency's Web site at http://www.osha.gov.

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