According to a recent report front the Government Accountability Office, OSHA is taking steps to strengthen collaborate efforts with the DOT on whistleblower issues, but the GAO feels that more can be done.
“OSHA documents its collaboration with DOT’s component agencies on whistleblower protections by developing memorandums of agreements (MOA), and currently MOAs cover aviation and rail employees; the agencies are considering developing MOAs to cover other transportation sectors such as commercial motor-carrier employees,” a GAO report states.
The report states that OSHA and the DOT are working together to identify and refer potential claims of retaliation and safety violations to each other. ” In September 2012, GAO concluded that collaboration is critical when meaningful results that the federal government seeks to achieve require the coordinated efforts of more than one federal agency.”
While the GAO applauds the collaboration efforts made by OSHA and the DOT, the agency says more can be done. The GAO report recommends the agencies clearly define roles and determine how the agencies will be monitored. The GAO recommends current MOA’s clearly define roles and responsibilities for developing training on whistelblower issues and regional coordination. “Defining such responsibilities could help ensure beneficial training occurs and the agencies avoid miscommunication and inconsistent whistleblower processes involving referrals between the agencies’ regional offices. Additionally, since the agencies have not developed or documented how they would monitor referrals, neither OSHA nor DOT can assess whether the referral process is working as intended. By monitoring and evaluating the outcomes of referrals, the agencies would have more assurance that they are addressing the safety violations and claims of retaliation raised by transportation-related employees,” the report states.
Over the last 6 years, transportation-related whistleblower claims have increased. In 2008, 508 claims were filed, and in 2013, that number jumped to 821.
GAO interviewed several transportation industry stakeholders who identified several issues that affect why the number of claims have really doubled. The issues include: employee awareness of whistleblower protection and the ease of filing claims via anonymous hotlines.
“America’s truck drivers have the right to refuse to drive when they are fatigued and/or ill and when they may be in violation of hours-of-service requirements, as permitted by current federal trucking regulations,” Cindy A. Coe, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta said in an earlier case. “OSHA will ensure that these basic worker rights are protected and will prosecute any employer found violating them.”
Drivers, it is your CSA score that is affected if your dispatcher orders you to make a delivery that violates the hours of service, or if you are ordered to drive a truck that does not meet regulation. You have a legal right to refuse any load.