How to File an OSHA Complaint Regarding Secondhand Smoke
How to File an OSHA Complaint Regarding Secondhand Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)
People who have a concern about ETS (secondhand smoke) in the workplace can request that a letter be sent by OSHA to employers/business owners. This letter informs the employer of the potential hazards of ETS exposure and requires the employer to respond to OSHA within 5 days, specifying actions to correct the hazards. Please remember that OSHA’s jurisdiction is limited to employers or workplaces where there is an employee to employer relationship. However, customers/visitors in establishments who observe workers exposed to ETS can file a complaint with regard to this exposure. When filing a complaint against an Establishment (Bar, Restaurant, Night Club and/or etc.) because of ETS exposure, please use the OSHA complaint form OSHA-7, Notice of Alleged Safety and/or Health Hazards.
The complaint process is handled electronically through an OSHA website. Please note that there is a box on the OSHA complaint form for the complainant to check-off that they do not want their name revealed to the employer.
Filing the Complaint
The OSHA complaint can be filled out and filed through the Internet at: http://www.osha.gov/pls/osha7/eComplaintForm.html
or by downloading the OSHA complaint form at:
completing it, and then either faxing it or mailing it to the OSHA Area Office that has jurisdiction over the specific Establishment/Employer listed on the complaint (see below).
Depending on the county in which the Establishment/Employer is located, complaint forms should be sent to one of two Colorado OSHA Area Offices.
For the following counties, complaints should be sent to
OSHA/Englewood Area Office
7935 East Prentice Avenue, Suite 209
Englewood, Colorado 80111-2714
Phone: (303) 843-4500 Fax: (303) 843-4515
Alamosa Cheyenne Douglas Huerfano Lincoln Prowers Teller
Arapahoe Conejos Elbert Jefferson Montezuma Pueblo
Archuleta Costilla El Paso Kiowa Montrose Rio Grand
Baca Crowley Fremont Kit Carson Otero Saguache
Bent Custer Gunnison La Plata Ouray San Juan
Chafee Dolores Hinsdale Las Animas Park San Miguel
For these counties, complaints should be sent to
OSHA/Denver Area Office
1391 Speer Blvd., Suite 210
Denver, Colorado 80204
Phone: (303) 844-5285 Fax: (303) 844-6676
Adams Denver Jackson Moffat Routt Yuma
Boulder Eagle Lake Morgan Sedgwick
Broomfield Garfield Larimer Phillips Summit
Clear Creek Gilpin Logan Pitkin Washington
Delta Grand Mesa Rio Blanco Weld
Be prepared to have the Establishment Name, Establishment Street Address, City, Zip Code, Establishment Phone Number, Establishment Fax Number (if known), Owner/Manager Name (if known), and Type of Business. There are some additional entries but they are self-explanatory.
The OSHA ‘phone & fax’ method gives the Establishment/Employer five (5) days to respond back to OSHA with a formal written reply to the complaint allegation(s). If the Establishment/Employer requests additional time to make corrective actions, then a reasonable amount of time is usually granted as long as the employer is held to a new response date and as long as the Establishment/Employer provides additional written documentation of what corrective measures were implemented.
Important: When preparing the complaint include the following or similar language on the form:
1. Employees of (Establishment Name) are being exposed to levels of various chemicals (secondhand environmental tobacco smoke) known to cause numerous health hazards, including cancer, even in otherwise healthy adults.
2. Optional: Insert an additional complaint item that would discuss the specific health symptoms presently being experienced and/or the known diseases that have been diagnosed and/or the current medical conditions that are being exacerbated by exposure to the airborne levels of secondhand environmental tobacco smoke in the establishment.
Symptoms might include, asthma, shortness of breath, headaches, itchy eyes, etc. Remember that Secondhand smoke is classified as a Group A Carcinogen by the Environmental Protection Agency-a substance known to cause cancer in humans. There is no safe level of exposure. (Respiratory Health Effects of Passive Smoking: Lung Cancer and Other Disorders, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report, 1992).
It has been shown that non-smoking workers routinely exposed to significant secondhand smoke triple their risk for lung cancer. (International Journal of Cancer, July 2001).
3. Note to include in the request to the OSHA Area Office: “Please insert the above listed complaint allegation(s) in your agency’s specially prepared indoor air quality (IAQ) Tobacco Smoke Letter for the Employer, and then please process this as a non-formal complaint through your ‘phone & fax’ method.”