OSHA Handbook for Small Businesses

V. Assistance in Safety and Health

OSHA Assistance

Free Onsite Consultation

Using a free consultation service largely funded by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers can find out about potential hazards at their worksites, improve their occupational safety and health management systems, and even qualify for a 1-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections.

The service is delivered by state governments using well-trained professional staff. Most consultations take place onsite, though limited services away from the worksite are available.

Primarily targeted for smaller businesses, this safety and health consultation program is completely separate from the OSHA inspection effort. In addition, no citations are issued or penalties proposed.

It's confidential, too. Your name, your firm's name, and any information you provide about your work-place, plus any unsafe or unhealthful working conditions that the consultant uncovers, will not be reported routinely to the OSHA inspection staff.

Your only obligation will be to commit yourself to correcting serious job safety and health hazards—a commitment which you are expected to make prior to the actual visit and carried out in a timely manner.

Getting Started: Since consultation is a voluntary activity, you must request it. Your telephone call or letter sets the consulting machinery in motion. The consultant will discuss your specific needs with you and set up a visit date based on the priority assigned to your request, your work schedule, and the time needed for the consultant to prepare adequately to serve you. OSHA encourages a complete review of your firm's safety and health situation; however, if you wish you may limit the visit to one or more specific problems.

Opening Conference: When the consultant arrives at your worksite for the scheduled visit, he or she will first meet with you in an opening conference to briefly review the consultant's role and the obligation you incur as an employer.

Walkthrough: Together, you and the consultant will examine conditions in your workplace. OSHA strongly encourages maximum employee participation in the walkthrough. Better informed and more alert employees can more easily work with you to identify and correct potential injury and illness hazards in your workplace. Talking with employees during the walkthrough helps the consultant identify and judge the nature and extent of specific hazards.

The consultant will study your entire workplace or the specific operations you designate and discuss the applicable OSHA standards. Consultants also will point our other safety or health risks which might not be cited under OSHA standards, but which nevertheless may pose safety or health risks to your employees. They may suggest and even provide other measures such as self-inspection and safety and health training you and your employees can apply to prevent future hazardous situations.

A comprehensive consultation also includes: (1) appraisal of all mechanical and environmental hazards and physical work practices, (2) appraisal of the present job safety and health program or the establishment of one, (3) a conference with management on findings, (4) a written report of recommendations and agreements and (5) training and assistance with implementing recommendations.

Closing Conference: The consultant will then review detailed findings with you in a closing conference. You will learn not what you need to improve, but what you are doing right, as well. At that time you can discuss problems, possible solutions and abatement periods to eliminate or control any serious hazards identified during the walkthrough.

In rare instances, the consultant may find a "imminent danger" situation during the walkthrough. If so, you must take immediate action to protect all employees.

In certain other situations— those which would be judged a "serious violation" under OSHA criteria—you and the consultant are required to develop and agree to a reasonable plan and schedule to eliminate or control that hazard. The consultants will offer general approaches and options to you. They may also suggest other sources for technical help.

Abatement and Followthrough: Following the closing conference, the consultant will send you a detailed written report explaining the findings and confirming any abatement periods agreed upon. Consultants may also contact you from time to time to check your progress. You, of course, may always contact them for assistance.

Ultimately, OSHA does require hazard abatement so that each consultation visit achieves its objective— effective employee protection. If you fail to eliminate or control identified serious hazards (or an imminent danger) according to the plan and within the limits agreed upon or an agreed upon extension, the situation must be referred from consultation to an OSHA enforcement office for appropriate action. This, however, has occurred only rarely in the past.

Benefits: Knowledge of your workplace hazards and ways to eliminate them can only improve your own operations—and the management of your firm. You will get professional advice and assistance on the correction of workplace hazards and benefit from onsite training and assistance provided by the consultant to you and your employees. The consultant can help you establish or strengthen an employee safety and health program, making safety and health activities routine considerations rather than crisis-oriented responses.

In many states, employers may participate in OSHA's "Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program"—SHARP. This program is designed to provide incentives and support to smaller, high-hazard employers to develop, implement and continuously improve effective safety and health programs at their worksite(s). SHARP provides for recognition of employers who have demonstrated exemplary achievements in workplace safety and health by receiving a comprehensive safety and health consultation visit, correcting all workplace safety and health hazards, adopting and implementing effective safety and health management systems, and agreeing to request further consultative visits if major changes in working conditions or processes occur which may introduce new hazards. Employers who meet these specific SHARP requirements may be removed from OSHA's programmed inspection list for a period of 1 year.

The Onsite 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 with a written report summarizing findings,

Assist you to develop or maintain an effective safety and health program,

Provide training and education for you and your employees, and

Recommend you for a 1-year exclusion from OSHA programmed inspections, once program criteria are met.

The Onsite Consultants WILL NOT:

Issue citations or propose penalties for violations of OSHA standards,

Report possible violations to OSHA enforcement staff, or

Guarantee that your workplace will "pass" an OSHA inspection.

For more information concerning consultation assistance, see the list of consultation projects in Appendix E.

Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP)

OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) provide an opportunity for labor, management, and government to work together cooperatively to further the goal of providing effective safety and health protection in the workplace. The VPP grant recognition to worksites that provide or are committed to providing effective protection for their employees through implementation of systematically managed safety and health programs. The Star Program is for worksites that have at least 1 year's experience with an effectively implemented safety and health program. The Merit Program is for worksites working toward an effectively implemented program. The Demonstration Program is for worksites with programs at Star quality but have some aspect of their program that requires further study by OSHA. All participants work in partnership with OSHA and provide models for OSHA and for their industries. For further information, either contact your OSHA regional office listed in Appendix E, or OSHA's Division of Voluntary Programs (202-219-7266) at U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room N3700, Washington, DC 20210.

Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association (VPPPA)

The VPPPA has members in most states where the federal OSHA program operates and in many states where state plans are in force. The VPPPA is willing to provide information, outreach, and mentoring to help worksites improve their safety and health programs. Chapters of the National Association have been formed in most OSHA regions. Members of these chapters also are willing to provide the kind of assistance provided by the national organization. In order to contact your regional chapter of the Association, please call or write your OSHA Regional Office listed in the back of this publication. They will be able to provide you with the address and telephone number of the chapter in your region. To contact the VPPPA national organization, please call (703) 761-1146 or write to the following address:

Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association
7600 East Leesburg Pike Suite 440
Falls Church, VA 22043

States with Approved Plans

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act encourages each state to assume the fullest responsibility for the administration and enforcement of occupational safety and health programs.

For example, federal law permits any state to assert jurisdiction, under state law, over any occupational safety or health standard not covered by a federal standard.

In addition, any state may assume responsibility for the development and enforcement of its own occupational safety and health standards for those areas now covered by federal standards. However, the state must first submit a plan for approval by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Many states have done so.

Certain states are now operating under approved state plans. These states may have adopted the existing federal standards or may have developed their own standards. Some states also have changed the required poster. You need to know whether you are covered by a state plan operation, or are subject to the federal program, in order to determine which set of standards and regulations (federal or state) apply to you. The easiest way to determine this is to call the nearest OSHA area office.

If you are subject to state enforcement, the OSHA area office will explain this, explain whether the state is using the federal standards, and provide you with information on the poster and on the OSHA recordkeeping requirements. The OSHA area office will also refer you to the appropriate state government office for further assistance.

This assistance also may include the free onsite consultation visits described earlier. If you are subject to state enforcement, you should also take advantage of this service.

See list of OSHA-approved state plans in Appendix E.

Related OSHA Publications

A single free copy of the following materials can be obtained from the OSHA area or regional office or contact the OSHA Publications Office, P.O. Box 37535, Washington, DC 20013-7535, (202) 219-4667; or (202) 219-9266 (fax). Please send a self-addressed mailing label with your request.

Access to Medical and Exposure Records - OSHA 3110

All About OSHA - OSHA 2056

Asbestos Standard for General Industry - OSHA 3095

Bloodborne Pathogens and Acute Health Care Workers - OSHA 3128

Bloodborne Pathogens and Dental Workers - OSHA 3129

Bloodborne Pathogens and Emergency Responders -OSHA 3130

Bloodborne Pathogens and Long-Term Health Care Workers - OSHA 3131

Consultation Services for the Employer - OSHA 3047

Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout) -OSHA 3120

Employee Workplace Rights - OSHA 3021

Employer Rights and Responsibilities and Courses of Action Following an OSHA Inspection - OSHA 3000

Exposición a Patógenos Transmitidos por la Sangre en el Trabajo (Bloodborne- Generic) - OSHA 3134

How to Prepare for Workplace Emergencies - OSHA 3088

Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens -OSHA 3127

Occupational Safety and Health Act- OSHA 2001

OSHA Inspections - OSHA 2098

OSHA Poster - OSHA 2203

OSHA Publications and Audiovisual Programs -OSHA 2019

Personal Protective Equipment- OSHA 3077

Servicing Single Piece and Multipiece Rim Wheels -OSHA 3086

The following publications are available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, Washington, DC 20402, (202) 512-1800, (202) 512-2250 (fax). Include GPO Order Number and make checks payable to Superintendent of Documents.

All prices subject to change by GPO.

Chemical Hazard Communication Guidelines (OSHA 3111 )

Order No. 029-016-00127-1. Cost: $1.00

Construction Industry Digest (OSHA 2202) Order No. 029-106-00155-2. Cost: 2.25

Ergonomics: The Study of Work (OSHA 3125) Order No. 029-016-00124-7. Cost: $1.00

Hand and Power Tools (OSHA 3080)

Order No. 029-016-00143-3. Cost: $1.00

Job Hazard Analysis (OSHA 3071 )

Order No. 029-016-00142-5. Cost: $1.00

Materials Handling and Storing (OSHA 2236) Order No. 029-016-00138-7. Cost: $2.00

Electronic Information

Labor News Bulletin Board—OSHA news releases, recent Federal Register notices, fact sheets, and other information are available by modem by dialing (202) 219-4784. Set the modem at 300, 1,200, 2,400, 9,600, or 14,400 BAUD; Parity: None; Date Bits=8; Stop Bit=1. Voice phone: (202) 219-8831.

Internet—OSHA standards, interpretations, directives, and additional information are now on the World Wide Web at http://www.osha.gov/ and http://www.oshaslc.gov/.

CD-ROM—A wide variety of OSHA materials— including standards, interpretations, directives, and more—can be purchased on CD-ROM from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents. Phone (202) 512-1800; GPO Order No. S/N 729-013-00000-5, $79 per year; $28 a single copy .


For life-threatening situations, call (800) 321-OSHA. Complaints will go immediately to the nearest OSHA area or state office for help.

For further information on any OSHA program, contact your nearest OSHA area or regional office listed in this publication.

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