OSHA backs down from revision to On-Site Consultation program

A workplace inspection by an Occupational Safety and Health Administration official that results in a citation might subject an employer to financial penalties. Although a large corporation might be able to absorb that expense, the subjective impact to a small business owner might be much greater.

Yet a workers’ compensation lawyer might agree that the policy rationale behind federal and state safety regulations is on-the-job injury prevention, rather than punishment. OSHA regulations strive to make workplaces safer for employees by requiring employers to take precautions against foreseeable hazards, many of which might be specific to certain industries. OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program might also evidence that safety and accident prevention goal. According to an OSHA official, the consultation program is a way for small-business employers to proactively take steps to make their workplaces safer.

Employers that participate in the program can receive free advice from an OSHA official who will tour the employer’s workplace and identify any applicable safety regulatory issues. Employers that correct any identified safety issues and set up an internal program for monitoring and correcting workplace hazards might qualify for an exemption from future OSHA inspections. In California, Cal/OSHA may exercise that enforcement authority.

Recently, OSHA officials proposed an amendment to the On-site Consultation program that would have set a finite length to the exemption period. The proposed amendment, published as a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, apparently received negative feedback. Some commentators may have feared that a finite exemption period would discourse employer participation in the program. In response, OSHA recently announced that it was withdrawing the proposed rule.

Source: fenderbender.com, “OSHA withdraws proposed changes to On-site Consultation Program,” Aug. 22, 2013

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