Employees will now play a larger role in federally-funded worksite consultation visits.
The on-site consultations programs funded by OSHA, and managed by state agencies, provide expert advice from trained consultants to assist employers in identifying workplace hazards and in establishing safety and health programs.
"Employees often have firsthand knowledge of hazards in the workplace," said OSHA Administrator Charles Jeffress. "Workers'' participation in the visit and in the correction of problems helps ensure the effectiveness of the consultation in improving workplace conditions."
Through the workplace consultation program, 164,088 hazards were corrected in 1999, following 25,539 consultations.
Consultation is free, but employers who request help must agree, in advance, to correct all serious hazards identified by the consultant.
Top priority goes to hazardous industries with fewer than 250 employees on site or no more than 500 employees nationwide.
The new rule specifies that authorized employees now have the right to accompany the consultant during the physical inspection of the workplace.
Where there is no authorized representative or where one cannot be determined, the consultant should speak to a reasonable number of employees about workplace safety and health.
Authorized representatives may now participate in opening and closing conferences with the consultant, either separately or jointly with the employer.
Under the revised rule, employers must post a list of the serious hazards identified by the consultant and the dates for completing the corrective action.
The list must be posted in prominent places, easily observed by all affected employees for three days or until all the hazards are corrected, whichever is later.
The rule offers special recognition through the "Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program" (SHARP) for employers who complete a consultation visit and meet specific requirements, including correcting all hazards and demonstrating that the elements of a safety and health program are in place.
The final rule, "Consultation Agreement: Changes to Consultation Procedures," can be found in the Oct. 26, Federal Register.
The rule will become effective on Dec. 26, 2000.
by Virginia Sutcliffe