By Ranzy Brown, Safety and Health Consultant, OSHA On-Site Consultation Program
Last month, I had the pleasure of teaching a class called The Best Kept Secret in Ohio at the Ohio Safety Congress & Expo. My presentation let the audience in on this secret: BWC’s OSHA On-Site Consultation Program. Most of the almost 60 people in the room had never heard of us or what we do.
I began the session with a brief history of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the consultation program, then explained who is eligible to receive our free and confidential services. Basically, all employers covered by OSHA regulations can request an On-Site consultation. The program gives priority to privately-owned smaller businesses, and those in high-hazard industries. Typically, a grant from OSHA funds 90 percent of the program while BWC covers the other 10 percent (this year it’s closer to an 86-14 split). This means there is never any charge to use our services.
Most of the questions focused on the relationship between consultation and enforcement. I believe most employers want to do the right thing and provide a safe workplace; sometimes they are simply unaware of hazards that exist in their businesses. Our consultants point out these hazards with the understanding that the employer will abate the serious ones. Our services are confidential from OSHA, however, if an employer refuses to abate serious hazards, we can refer them for possible enforcement action. While an employer is actively working with OSHA On-Site Consultation, they have “visit in progress” status, which means OSHA cannot open a programmed enforcement inspection.
Additionally, businesses that have an exemplary safety and health program can qualify for the programmed inspection exemption for up to three years by becoming a SHARP employer. SHARP – Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program – companies have demonstrated excellence in all aspects of managing safety and health.
I ended the class by sharing information about how attendees can contact the OSHA On-Site Consultation program to ask questions or request a consultation. I also covered how recent OSHA standard revisions (e.g., walking and working surfaces or recordkeeping) could impact their workplaces. Developing a relationship with an On-Site consultant can make it easier to keep up with changes and make staying in compliance easier.
After the session, I had a good conversation with several people regarding work policies and practices that could be OSHA violations in their workplaces. My fellow consultants want to help your business too.