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Texas' workplace safety hotline 24 hours after voicemail glitch

Workers in Texas are supposed to be able to call a toll-free number to report unsafe working conditions. The Legislature passed a law more than 20 years ago to create the hotline, which employers are required to inform their employees about at the job site.

But until recently, the hotline, which is operated by the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation, was only available for part of the day. Callers were supposed to be able to talk to a live operator during business hours, and leave a voicemail the rest of the time.

However, a media investigation discovered that the system was directing off-hours callers to a generic electronic message from the state Department of Insurance. At least 50 times from late May through late June, callers tried to reach the hotline after hours, only to be directed to this unrelated extension.

The problem was apparently due to a technical error. Just how long it was a problem for is not clear. The Division of Workers’ Compensation says it had not received a voicemail on the hotline since April 2013. Apparently, nobody there thought that was strange.

The department quickly fixed the error by staffing it with operators round the clock. Now, people concerned about the safety of themselves or their co-workers can leave a report with a human, no matter what time of day they call.

This increased access will hopefully make it safer to go to work in Texas. Workplace accidents remain a significant source of fatality and long-term disability in the state.

Source: Killeen Daily Herald, “Texas Work Safety Hotline Upgraded,” July 9, 2014

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