More than Enforcement: Exploring OSHA’s On-Site Consultation Program
Congress created OSHA to assure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. While many employers view OSHA solely as a governmental enforcement agency, and some have adopted the view that it always must be “us versus them,” OSHA does offer no-cost, penalty-free assistance to employers.
OSHA’s On-Site Consultation program provides confidential consultation services that target small- to medium-sized businesses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several United States territories. This consultation can be a great benefit to improving safety and health programs and reducing hazards at worksites. The program evaluates the employer’s safety and health programs, identifies program deficiencies, and suggests corrective measures and areas for improvement. The program has proven effective in reducing injuries, illnesses, and reducing employer costs. In fact, studies show an average of 28,514 establishments in the private sector received services through the program between 2012 and 2016, which has covered over 1.26 million employees.
Benefits of Using the Program
The consultation is separate from the OSHA inspection effort and will not alone cause citations or proposed penalties. The company’s obligation in using the program is to correct serious job safety and health hazards in a timely manner. The program can:
- Help protect workers from injury, loss of life, and illness
- Promote an increased understanding of hazards and remedies at the job site for management, enabling compliance with applicable safety standards
- Improve a company’s bottom line by lowering injury and illness rates, reducing lost workdays, decreasing worker’s compensation costs, and preventing penalties.
The on-site consultations consist of an opening conference, walkthrough, closing conference, abatement, and follow through. This is all what would typically occur during an OSHA inspection. During the opening conference, the employer will meet with the consultant and discuss the consultant’s role and the obligations of the employer. Next, the employer and the consultant will perform a walkthrough to evaluate the worksite conditions. OSHA encourages that a maximum number of employees participate in the walkthrough. This can be useful in identifying and explaining potential hazards. During the closing conference, the employer will be advised of any deficiencies, recommended specific solutions, and proposed abatement periods. During the abatement and follow through process, the consultant will send a detailed report explaining the findings and confirming any agreed upon abatement periods. Notably, if a company fails to eliminate or control any serious hazards or an imminent danger pursuant to the plan and/or within the agreed-upon protocol, the employer will be referred to the local OSHA office and may be subject to enforcement.
To request a consultation, click here. Please note that smaller employers in high-risk work sites have priority in scheduling. Examples of high-risk worksites are those with a large number of hazardous operations, above average employee days away from work, and high hazard industries.