OSHA investigator exposes mismanagement inside the Whistleblower Protection Program that left whistleblowers out to dry

"A federal whistleblower investigator who blew the whistle on his own employer says he is now communicating with the government agency that examines allegations of fraud, waste and abuse.
Darrell Whitman works as an investigator for OSHA's Whistleblower Protection Program, which evaluates claims of retaliation against workers who raise red flags about major problems in industries that affect public safety.

He spoke to the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit in February regarding allegations of corruption inside OSHA Region 9, which is headquartered in San Francisco. Whitman said the United States Office of Special Counsel is now looking into his claims.

“When I found that this agency was abusing them, neglecting them and ignoring them,” Whitman said, “I had to standup and report [OSHA].”

Whitman described what he considers mismanagement of whistleblower complaints by Region 9 managers. He said his superiors have pressured investigators to dismiss cases without fully investigating them to alleviate a backlog of cases and meet quotas.

He said managers have altered his investigation reports, reversing the conclusion of his reports without his consent. Whitman said in one instance, his supervisor changed a case from a finding of “merit”—a victory for the whistleblower—to a determination of “non-merit.”

OSHA’s own numbers show that the agency issued merit findings in Region 9 just 16 times out of 562 investigations from 2009 to 2014. That amounts to 2.8 percent of cases. Nationally, the number of merit findings is equally dismal at 2.7 percent. Whitman believes the number of merit determinations should be closer to 30 percent.

...“When we don’t step up and do the right thing it’s not just the fellow worker," Whitman said, "it’s the public as a whole that then is at risk.”

...“They have to clean this agency up,” said UPWA head Steve Zeltzer. “They have to start enforcing their law and have to start protecting whistleblowers and putting executives in jail for threatening the health and safety of workers and the public at large.”


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