As shop owners, we tend to think of OSHA as meaning “Enforcement.”
At PMPA’s Management Update Meeting in Arizona last week, Director Michaels reminded us that OSHA also provides Free On-site Safety and Health  Consultation Services for Small Business.

"OSHA provides free and confidential safety and health advice to small and medium sized businesses committed to improving workplace safety and health."
“OSHA provides free and confidential safety and health advice to small and medium sized businesses committed to improving workplace safety and health.”

A consultation visit is a voluntary activity conducted at the request of an employer.

The employer’s only obligation is to correct any “serious,” unsafe or unhealthful working conditions discovered by the consultant within a reasonable timeframe.

Consultants will NOT issue citations or propose penalties for violations of OSHA standards. 

6 Reasons for you to consider a voluntary consultation

  • Reduce worker injury and illness rates;
  • Decrease workmen’s compensation costs;
  • Improve employee morale;
  • Increase productivity;
  • Recognize and remove workplace hazards;
  • Improve safety and health management systems.

Director Michaels assured our members that “On-site consultation services are separate from our enforcement activities. Last year we did about 30,000 on-site consultations at the request of small businesses looking to improve their company’s safety and health performance. These on-site consultations are paid for out of the OSHA budget, and are one of the tools in our mix to improve the safety and health of all workers in the U.S.”

We personally know of several PMPA members who have used this service and they are leaders in both safety and operational performance.

Link to brochure on the OSHA On-site Consultation Service

Have you used this OSHA consultation service? What was your experience? What advice would you give to other shop owners?

PMPA invited Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA Director David Michaels, PhD, MPH to speak to attendees at our Management Update Conference held last week in Glendale, Arizona.

"OSHA levels the playing field for responsible employers competing with those who cut corners on safety."
“OSHA levels the playing field for responsible employers competing with those who cut corners on safety.”

PMPA member companies, and OSHA, share a committment to worker safety, reducing hazards, and operating safe workplaces.

So we thought that it would be good to hear from OSHA first hand about their programs and approach to their job, since the view from  us in the regulated community  seems to be one quite focused on adversarial enforcement.

Here are a half a dozen thoughts shared by Director Michaels on OSHA and its role.

  • “Given (very) limited resources, OSHA’s challenge is to apply the most efficient mix in order to maximize the abatement of hazards and therefore the prevention of injuries, illnesses, and fatalities.”
  • “OSHA provides training resources in multiple languages to aid employers in training employees in all occupations  so that they can safely perform their jobs.”
  • “It always makes us laugh when we are asked ‘How many OSHA standards have you issued this month?’ We issue about one standard a year, and have for the last four years. Last year we issued one on the Globally Harmonized System. However, our standards have an impact. Our standards save lives.”
  • “We just issued our new GHS- Globally Harmonized Standard- for communicating hazards in materials you get. This will assure that the cmmunications and information that you get on the possible hazards that these materials may present  is much better than what you have been getting. They use pictograms so workers can see immediately the type of hazard without reading.”
  • “OSHA is not just an enforcement agency. We provide many resources for compliance assistance. In 2011, we had 200 million visitors to our website, over 200,000 responses to OSHA 1-800 for help, replied to over 33,000 emails for assistance, conducted 5,300 outreach activities regionally and in our area offices. We performed about 27,000 small business consultations in 2012. Our  budget for consultation  assistance programs increased $3.2 million over 2011 budget.”
  • “In the last full year of the previous administration, OSHA did 39,324 inspections; in 2012, we did 40,961. We get about 40,000 inspections per year. What we try to do is to get our inspections targeted, to do everything that we can to make those 40,000 inspections useful. We try to assure the effectiveness of our enforcement efforts.”

Having the regulated community (that’s us) see the fines and press releases and press coverage of OSHA enforcement is one way that OSHA can leverage its limited staff and resources to promote safety in all industries and shops, not just the ones they visit. OSHA has certainly been successful on that account!

Dr. Michaels’ visit to the PMPA Management update meeting helped me, and our attendees, get a bit of understanding, a bit of empathy, of what the challenge must look like for OSHA. I recall a line from To Kill A Mockingbird:

“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

PMPA thanks Dr. Michaels for taking the time to address us and our concerns about  the perceived enforcement focus.