Smaller Construction Firms: It May Be Time for an Onsite Non-Enforcement Consultation from OSHA
These free visits help companies learn how to work safer and comply with regulations.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) conducts some 72,000 federal and state inspections every year, and with a request for $557 million for OSHA in the 2020 federal budget, that number is expected to increase, meaning more surprise inspections for construction companies.
While it’s possible to plan in advance for an OSHA inspection, small and medium-size companies can go a step further and take advantage of OSHA’s Onsite Non-Enforcement Consultation Program. Available in every state and several U.S. territories, the program helps companies identify workplace hazards, learn how to comply with OSHA regulations and establish or improve a safety program through free site visits from third-party consultants, often from state agencies or universities.
These visits are separate from OSHA inspections and cannot result in penalties or citations. In fact, the program is confidential. Nothing gets reported to OSHA after the visit, even if unsafe working conditions are discovered. The consultants provide a written report of their findings for the firm’s eyes only. It is the firm’s responsibility to correct any serious hazards in a timely manner.
OSHA understands that many small businesses may not be able to employ a full-time safety manager. With this program, it aims to help them maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees.
OSHA is pushing for the program to be used more widely in hopes of decreasing work-related injuries and illnesses. In some cases, companies who use it could be exempt from OSHA inspections for one year.
To apply for a consultation, enter your state or territory in OSHA’s Consultation Directory and then contact the local program. From there, the consultant will work with you to understand your needs, review your current safety program and plan a time for the site visit. The consultant can perform an overall evaluation or focus on helping with a specific need.
Once on-site, the consultant completes a walk-through of the jobsite, identifying risks and relevant OSHA standards along the way. The more of the company’s employees that attend the walk-through, the better.
After the walk-through, the consultant will meet with management to explain the findings, noting what the company is doing right and where it can improve. It’s a chance to discuss problems and potential solutions. The consultant may provide training or training materials to help the company act on any recommendations.
While the program may seem too good to be true, OSHA and its associated state programs operate it with one goal in mind: creating healthy environments for the millions of workers employed on jobsites every day.
Donna Puglisi is a communications and marketing professional specializing in the construction industry.