Government safety inspectors will not routinely request that employers who voluntarily evaluate work sites for potential safety and health problems provide the findings to the government during safety and health inspections, OSHA announced yesterday.
In formalizing the policy first announced last October, OSHA said that a voluntary evaluation -- or self-audit -- will not be used to justify a citation if the hazard has been corrected and the employer has taken steps to prevent its recurrence.
The agency also said that a voluntary self-audit, when coupled with a "good faith" attempt to correct an existing hazard, will eliminate a potential OSHA willful violation and result in penalty reductions.
"We are formalizing this policy because we want employers to find and fix hazards and not fear that we''ll use this information against them," said OSHA Administrator Charles N. Jeffress.
Jeffress said that only in rare cases, such as when an employer blatantly ignores or refuses to correct hazards likely to result in serious injury or death, could self-audits be used as the basis for issuing a willful citation.
OSHA took public comments on last year''s draft. Among the suggestions that OSHA incorporated into the final policy are:
- Expanding the definition of "self-audit" to include evaluations conducted by a third party;
- Broadening the types of people who may conduct self-audits to include competent employees and management officials;
- Ensuring that OSHA personnel are fully trained in this policy so that it will be consistently applied; and
- Allowing employers to provide self-audits report as evidence of "good faith" attempts to fix hazards.
The policy, effective immediately, appears in today''s Federal Register.
by Virginia Sutcliffe