OSHA Offers Free On-Site Consultations to Improve Workplace Safety
Through its On-Site Consultation program, OSHA wants to help small to medium-sized businesses improve and maintain workplace safety standards. In most cases, OSHA representatives will travel directly to your workplace and conduct a detailed inspection. The OSHA representative will identify potential hazards, discuss potential solutions, and review and improve injury prevention programs. This free service is confidential and operates separately from OSHA’s inspection branch. Neither identifying information nor discovered hazards will be routinely reported to OSHA inspection staff. Additionally, no citations are issued during the consultation.
A typical consultation works much like an OSHA inspection. A consultant will first conduct an opening conference to discuss the consultation process. This includes both the consultant’s role as well as the employer’s potential obligations. The consultant and employer will then conduct a walkthrough of the workplace. This walkthrough can include the entire workplace or specifically designated areas. During the walkthrough, the consultant will discuss both applicable OSHA standards as well as other potential health or safety risks not specifically cited under a standard. The consultant may also provide guidance on how the employer can prevent future hazards from developing.
After the walkthrough, the consultant will conduct a closing conference to review the findings. The closing conference will discuss not only the areas that need improvement, but also what the employer is doing correctly. In certain circumstances, the walkthrough may reveal either an “imminent danger” or a “serious violation” of OSHA standards. In the case of an imminent danger, the employer will be required to take immediate action to correct the issue. In the case of a serious violation, the consultant and employer will be required to agree on a plan and time frame to appropriately address the hazard. The consultant will be able to offer advice and options on how to do this, and may also make suggestions on where to find additional help.
After the consultation has ended, the consultant will provide a detailed written report of the findings. This report will explain any discovered hazards and areas that need improvement. If imminent threats or serious violations are discovered, the report will confirm the employer’s abatement responsibilities and agreed-upon plan. Although rare, an employer’s failure to correct an imminent danger or serious violation according to the plan has resulted in a referral to an OSHA enforcement office for further action. Routine or possible violations, however, are not referred for any further action. Employers who participate in the consultation and comply with certain standards may be found eligible to participate in OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (“SHARP”). SHARP participants, among other things, can be granted an exemption from OSHA programmed inspections for up to two years.
The On-Site Consultation service is a voluntary program. Therefore, employers must request a consultation in order to participate. Employers can request a consultation by visiting OSHA’s Consultation Directory and requesting contact information for their state. Further details about the program can be found at OSHA’s On-Site Consultation website. Specific information about OSHA’s SHARP program may be found at OSHA’s SHARP website.