Small business owners often treat health and safety inspections with a certain amount dread because of all the red tape and potential sanctions for the smallest infraction. At the same time, there are certainly excellent reasons to focus on workplace safety.
In 2015, 93 Americans were killed on the job every week, and three percent of all workers were hurt or became seriously ill. By conducting proper workplace checks, quite a few of those deaths and injuries probably could have been avoided.
That’s precisely why the US Department of Labor has stepped up with a free, voluntary On-site Consultation Program designed to help companies identify and mitigate workplace hazards that could ultimately cost lives. If you own a small business, it’s something you should definitely consider.
What is the OSHA On-site Consultation Program?
Headed by the department’s relatively small Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the On-site Consultation Program sees trained consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers of all shapes and sizes to identify workplace hazards and offer advice on how to avoid the risks associated with those hazards. Consultants also help companies to develop bespoke injury and illness prevention programs.
These consultations are totally different than enforcement inspections, and don’t result in companies being penalized for non-compliance with OSHA standards. They merely raise a flag on potential issues and show business owners a clear path to resolving them — which is probably why so many businesses have joined the program.
Last year, OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program conducted around 28,000 visits to small business work sites, employing over 1.1 million workers from all over America.
Why Should Your Business Join OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program?
Signing up for OSHA’s voluntary program is a proverbial triple-win for a company’s workers, managers and its bottom line.
By signing up for an inspection, companies will be able to recognize and remove hazards, protecting staff from injuries and saving lives. The program also helps companies to establish and promote safety plans that bolster staff development and improve morale.
Meanwhile, these consultations can be real eye-openers for managers in terms of compliance with important laws and can build trust with employees. Finally, in terms of a company’s bottom line, the program can work wonders by decreasing worker’s compensation costs, lost workdays and costly equipment damage.
The implications here are huge. After all, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance, sick or injured workers cost American employers a collective $62 billion per year.
There are plenty of case studies to back these points up — and because OSHA’s advice is free and confidential, businesses have got absolutely nothing to lose.
How Does the Program Work?
OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program is pretty simple, and it’s open to all businesses. But because it’s voluntary, you’ve got to request a consultation yourself.
In order to make this request, companies will need to find their local program’s office using OSHA’s Consultation Directory. After making contact, a consultant then talks you through your company’s unique needs and sets up a site visit based on your work schedule, the time required and how high a priority it sounds like your workplace may be in terms of unchecked hazards.
When consultants come for their visit, they’ll be able to conduct a thorough inspection of the site. This includes an appraisal of all mechanical and environmental hazards and physical work practices, as well as an appraisal of any current injury prevention program you might have in place.
There will then be a conference with management on the findings, followed by a written report identifying hazards and suggestions on how to solve any particular problems. The consultant should also be able to assist you in developing and providing a training program for your employees, as well as an effective injury and illness prevention program.
Your consultant will not issue citations or propose penalties for any laws you might be breaking, and won’t report possible violations to OSHA enforcement staff. That being said, if you fail to eliminate or control serious hazards that were flagged as part of your consultation plan, the situation might later get passed on to an OSHA enforcement office.
Again, the program is voluntary, so businesses are under no obligation to take advantage of it. But then again, you’ve got nothing to lose by getting in touch with your local program office — and it could save you a lot of hassle and cost later.