A South Dakota helicopter ambulance servicer was investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for retaliating against a whistleblower. The mechanic reported safety concerns and filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
OSHA examined the mechanic's complaint against Avera Careflight in Sioux Falls after the company terminated their employment. OSHA found that the company's actions violated the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century, and ordered them to reinstate the mechanic. In addition, OSHA directed Avera Careflight to pay the employee more than $30,600 in back wages and $25,000 in damages and to remove negative reports from their personnel record.
OSHA's investigation found the Aberdeen-based mechanic reported concerns with the safety of a helicopter on July 21, 2022, and continued to discuss safety matters with their supervisor and the manufacturer's national technical representative over the period of several months.
During that time, the mechanic's supervisor reprimanded them repeatedly for raising concerns and speaking to technical representatives. Believing the issues was unresolved, the mechanic filed an FAA complaint on Sept. 2, 2022 and the company terminated them on Sept. 29, 2022.
Federal law protects employees who refuse to perform work assignments when they reasonably believe these assignments would cause them to violate aviation safety regulations.