OSHA On-Site Consultation Program Option for Shops

Small Businesses Look to Program for Regulatory Compliance

The U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers small businesses on-site consultations to improve their businesses’ measures to prevent illnesses and injuries. In Fiscal Year 2013, OSHA visited more than 30,000 businesses covering 1.5 million workers. These consultation services are free and are primarily funded by OSHA.

The consultation services are delivered by state governments. This program is completely separate from the OSHA inspection effort. In addition, no citations are issued or penalties proposed. The program is confidential – protecting your name and your business’s name. Any information you provide about your workplace, plus any unsafe or unhealthful working conditions that the consultant uncovers, will not be reported routinely to the OSHA inspection staff.

OSHA states that the only obligation will be to correct serious job safety and health hazards. OSHA touts that the consultation program will enhance a small business by:

• Lowering injury and illness rates,
• Decreasing workers’ compensation costs,
• Reducing lost workdays, and
• Limiting equipment damage and product losses.

ASA encourages automotive repair shops to take advantage of this free consultation. Although the OSHA does not guarantee that participation in the program assures that your shop will pass an OSHA inspection, clearly it will help shops prepare their workplaces for inspections.

The Administration’s proposed regulations make significant changes in the on-site consultation program, but the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy and small business trade associations opposed the changes to the program and were successful in blocking the changes. The Office of Advocacy noted:

• Advocacy recommended that OSHA maintain the “wall of separation” between the On-Site Consul­ta­tion program and its enforcement program. Small business representatives have stated that many small businesses are reluctant to participate in the On-Site Consultation program because they fear that they will be referred to OSHA’s enforcement staff for any violations identified during the visit.
• Advocacy recommended that OSHA better explain why the proposed rule is needed. Small business representatives have expressed strong support for OSHA’s On-site Consultation program and Advocacy is concerned that the proposed changes could discourage small businesses from participating in the future.
• Advocacy recommended that OSHA clarify the types of instances that would trigger inspections under the proposed rule. Advocacy is concerned that the proposed rule would vest unlimited discretion with OSHA and inhibit small business participation in the program.
• Advocacy stated that OSHA would have benefited from small business input on the proposed rule and recommended that OSHA consider small business comments and conduct additional outreach before proceeding.

The Administration dropped its changes to the program, and the current on-site consultation program in place will benefit repair shops.

OSHA encourages the on-site consultations to avoid problems when shops are inspected. These are some key program points OSHA offers to encourage shops to participate in the on-site consultation program:

• Helps you recognize hazards in your workplace.
• Suggests general approaches or options for solving a safety or health problem.
• Identifies kinds of help available if you need further assistance
• Provides you a written report summarizing findings.
• Assists you to develop or maintain an effective injury and illness prevention program.
• Provides training and education for you and your employees.
The on-site consultants will not:
• Issue citations or propose penalties for violations of OSHA standards
• Report possible violations to OSHA enforcement staff.
• Guarantee that your workplace will “pass” an OSHA inspection

ASA will continue to support the on-site consultation program with Capitol Hill policymakers and the Administration. To find the appropriate on-site consultant in your state, please go to ASA’s legislative website www.TakingThe Hill.com.