OSHA Proposes Improvements to Its On-site Consultation Program

On Sept. 3, OSHA published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to revise regulations covering the agency’s On-site Consultation Program. The changes will provide the agency greater flexibility for inspecting worksites that are undergoing an on-site consultation visit and those that are granted Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) status, as well as ensure enhanced worker safety.

The proposed changes include clarifying the assistant secretary’s authority to identify sites that will be inspected, even if those sites are normally exempt because of their SHARP status. For example, when workplace accidents occur that generate widespread public concern about a hazard or substance, such as diacetyl or combustible dust, the assistant secretary may require that OSHA respond to these hazards by inspecting all sites within a specific industry.

Another proposed change would add referrals as a basis to terminate an employer’s on-site consultation visit and conduct an enforcement visit. Referrals are allegations of potential workplace hazards or violations from state or local health departments, media, and other sources. The proposal maintains current procedures that allow enforcement visits to terminate an on-site consultation visit or SHARP status based on an imminent danger, fatalities or catastrophes, and complaints from workers.

OSHA also is proposing to revise the existing initial exemption from programmed inspections of up to two years with an extension of up to three years for employers who have achieved SHARP status to one year with an extension of up to another year.

Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by Nov. 2. Individuals may submit comments at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Comments also may be submitted by mail or hand delivery to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket Number OSHA-2010-0010, U.S. Department of Labor, Room N-2625, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210. Submissions not longer than 10 pages may be faxed to the OSHA Docket Office at 202-693-1648.

OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers employers free assistance in developing and implementing an effective safety and health management system, with priority given to small businesses in high-hazard industries. The On-site Consultation Program is largely funded by federal OSHA, but is administered by the states. Services are delivered by trained state government employees. SHARP provides incentives and support to employers who implement and continuously improve effective safety and health management systems at their worksite.

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