Posted on 01/25/2013, by Jeremy Edsall
Partner with OSHA for On-Site Risk Control
If you’re wondering how best to determine hazards in your workplace, or how to best control injuries or illnesses, you might want to contact an OSHA consultant.
Not to be confused with an OSHA inspection, on-site consultants respond to direct requests from owners of small to medium sized businesses who need guidance in creating or improving their injury and illness prevention programs. During a typical year they will make visits to upwards of 30,000 work places whose total employees number over 1.5 million throughout the United States. They offer free, confidential advice to a variety of businesses with special attention given to work sites with greater hazard risks such as manufacturing and industrial facilities.
Consultants come from universities and state agencies and their findings do not result in any penalties or citations to the business. They will offer advice on complying with OSHA standards and help businesses develop programs to reduce injuries, accidents and illnesses due to hazards in the workplace.
The program is strictly voluntary, but you must contact OSHA if you are interested in having a consultant visit your business. Once you are connected with a consultant they will discuss with you what your needs are and schedule a convenient time for a visit. What is accomplished is up to you. They will address areas of concern that you feel are urgent or will do a complete overview of your entire businesses health and safety programs.
The Day of the Inspection
The consultant will sit down with you to determine what your concerns are and explain what they expect of you as the business owner. At the conclusion of this meeting you will know what to expect from the inspection process. If you have any additional questions they will be addressed before the inspection begins so that you both of you understand the process and what you hope to accomplish.
The Facility Walk Through
Participation from employees is encouraged. Input from employees is of particular benefit to the consultant, as it will improve both the quantity and quality of the recommendations he or she makes. The consultant will want to talk to employees in different areas of the business during the walk-through and determine what their concerns are. They should be able to explain their everyday procedures, define concerns in their workspaces and demonstrate use of equipment. As a benefit to your employees, the consultant will point out hazardous areas and activities they observe even if they fall outside of OSHA standards and citations.
A comprehensive consultation also includes
1. Appraisal of all mechanical and environmental hazards and physical work practices
2. Appraisal of the present injury and illness prevention program or establishment of one
3. A conference with management on findings
4. A written report of recommendations and agreements
5. Training and assistance with implementing recommendations.
Conference at Conclusion of Walk Thru
Once the walk thru has been completed you will again sit down with the consultant who will then review his or her findings with you. This will give you an opportunity to determine what is being done right and what needs further attention. The consultant will discuss opportunities for improvement and what steps and training are recommended. In the event that a serious safety hazard is found that would normally be cited as a serious violation by an OSHA inspector, immediate action will be taken to protect employees. If the situation cannot be corrected at that time, a plan will be made to remove or better control the hazard. The consultant will work with you, offering the best solutions for approaching the hazards, or potential hazards found. They may offer suggestions on outside resources to contact for further assistance. Other provided services might include health and safety training resources and other self-inspection tools.
Following Up With the Consultant
The consultant will prepare a written report on the findings of the visit. Included in the report will be an outline of steps that were agreed upon for correcting and removing any hazards found during the inspection. After the report has be issued and you have begun working on your safety plan you may be contacted by your consultant to check on the progress you are making. You are encouraged to contact your consultant for further assistance if you have additional questions while implementing your new safety program. OSHA has designed this program so that ultimately it achieves the goal of better protection for workers. You are expected to follow through on the recommendations made, especially when serious problems are encountered. Although a rarity, if you fail to take the necessary steps to create a safer work environment, your site could be referred to OSHA for future inspection. This would usually occur if you have clearly demonstrated an unwillingness to address serious safety issues that pose a danger to your workers.
The purpose of the partnership program is find and correct safety issues and to create programs and training that will prevent injuries, illnesses and accident from occurring in the future. The program is a cooperative program designed to create solutions to problems before they draw the attention of an OSHA inspector. It is a preemptive effort to correct mistakes before an official inspection wherein a business could be cited for workplace safety violations and face the potential of costly fines.
The On-Site Consultants Will:
Help you recognize hazards in your workplace
Suggest general approaches or options for solving a safety or health problem
Identify kinds of help available if you need further assistance
Provide you a written report summarizing findings
Assist you to develop or maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program
Provide training and education for you and your employees
Recommend you for a one-year exclusion from OSHA programmed inspections, once program criteria are met.
The On-Site Consultants Will Not:
Issue citations or propose penalties for violations of OSHA standards.
Report possible violations to OSHA enforcement staff.
Guarantee that your workplace will "pass" an OSHA inspection.