The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Consultation Service is a free service that allows employers to find out about potential hazards at their worksites, improve their occupational safety and health management systems, and even qualify for a one-year exemption from routine OSHA inspections. Targeted for smaller businesses, this confidential safety and health consultation program is completely separate from the OSHA inspection effort and no citations are issued or penalties proposed. The only obligation is to commit the company to correcting serious job safety and health hazards.
The company requests the consultation by telephone call or letter to the local OSHA Office, and a date and time is established for the OSHA consultant to visit the workplace to evaluate the specific issue of concern.
During the visit, the consultant will conduct an opening conference and a walk-through of the operation. The consultant will examine conditions in the workplace, talk with workers, and discuss the applicable OSHA standards for any issues identified. During the closing conference, the consultant will review detailed findings and identify what needs to improve, provide possible solutions, and identify what is done right. A comprehensive consultation also includes:
Appraisal of all mechanical and environmental hazards and physical work practices.
Appraisal of the present job safety and health program, or the establishment of one.
A written report of recommendations and agreements.
Training and assistance with implementing recommendations.
The consultant will help the company recognize hazards, suggest general approaches or options for solving a safety or health problem, identify kinds of help available, provide a written report summarizing findings, assist in developing or maintaining an effective safety and health program, provide training and education, and recommend a one-year exclusion from OSHA programmed inspections, once program criteria are met.
The consultant will not issue citations or propose penalties for violations of OSHA standards, report possible violations to OSHA enforcement staff, nor guarantee that a workplace will “pass” an OSHA inspection.
Following the closing conference, the consultant will send a detailed written report explaining the findings and confirming any abatement periods agreed upon. Ultimately, OSHA does require hazard abatement so that each consultation visit achieves its objective – effective worker protection. If the company fails 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.
The listing of OSHA Offices can be found on the OSHA Web site at www.osha.gov, under the “OSHA Consultation Program Directory – State Listing”
A complete listing of all OSHA consultation programs may be found in the OSHA booklet #3047 (1996 revised), Consultation Services for the Employer, and on the OSHA Web site under “Directory.”
State OSHA consultation programs generally are listed in the State government section of the telephone directory under “Department of Labor and Industry.”
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