Would you question in your mind an offer from the federal government, about a free program… saying it will be good for you? Well, I’m pleased to report there is one from OSHA that is really good!
I was recently at a seminar and learned from another employer their very positive experience with OSHA’s “21D Consultation Program” (see www.osha.gov/dcsp/smallbusiness/consult.html) This is a program primarily benefiting small employers, offering free and confidential occupational health and safety advice to businesses in all 50 states. There’s a contact directory on the OSHA website, but in GA, the consultants come from Georgia Tech (404-407-7431); in NC contact the NC Department of Labor (919-807-2905); and in SC contact the SC Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulations (803-896-7787). At your request, the consultant will come to your worksite and offer help in identifying potential hazards, improve your occupational injury and illness prevention programs, and even qualify for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections. They are not in a position to issue citations or impose penalties, and they don’t routinely share their findings with OSHA. You will have an Opening Conference with the consultant to define their role and the scope of the review; a Walk-Through with the consultant to examine workplace conditions; and a Closing Conference, where the consultant will review with you detailed findings (both positive and those needing attention), and discuss possible solutions and agree to abatement periods to address concerns. After they leave your site, they will issue you a comprehensive and confidential report on their findings. Your responsibility after you review the report is to fix any serious job safety and health hazards uncovered in the inspection, per the abatement schedule you and the consultant agree upon. Smaller employers who may not in-house have a great depth of safety expertise could really benefit from this program! The employer I spoke with had nothing but good things to say about the professionalism, knowledge and helpfulness of the consultants who came to her company. Here is an opportunity to be better prepared for an OSHA inspection, hopefully prevent some injuries, and save some workers comp costs. It doesn’t get better than that!
By Caryl Kuchman, SHPR, SHRM-SCP