How does the process work? Consultation service begins with your request-by telephone call, correspondence, or contact during a promotional visit by a consultant. Some services, such as a review of proposed new production processes from a safety and health point of view, may be conducted at locations away from the employer's work site. When you request on-site services, the consultant will confer with you at the outset regarding the specific needs or concerns you describe. The consultant may also research any special problems you mention in the initial contact before scheduling a visit to your establishment. Although you may include within the scope of the request all work conditions at the work site and your entire safety and health program, you do have the option to limit the visit to one or more specific problems. However, if the consultant observes hazards that are outside the scope of the request, you must be notified of their presence.
Upon arrival at your work site for a scheduled visit, the consultant will briefly review his/her role during the visit and may, if requested, review with you your safety and health program. The consultant will explain the relationship between on-site consultation and OSHA enforcement activity and further explain your obligation to protect employees in the event that "serious" hazardous conditions are identified. Also, the consultant will explain that employee participation is expected during the consultation process. At unionized sites, employee representatives must be afforded the opportunity to participate in an opening and closing conference with the consultant and will have the right to participate in the walk-through of the workplace. At all other sites, the consultant must have reasonable opportunity to confer with employees.
During the activity, you and the consultant will examine conditions in your workplace. The consultant will identify any specific hazards and provide advice and assistance in establishing or improving your safety and health program and in correcting any identified hazardous conditions. At your request, assistance may also include education and training for you, your supervisors, and your employees.
Worker participation in the walk-through is strongly encouraged. Employees who are well aware and alert to possible hazards can more easily work with you to identify and correct potential injury and illness hazards. At a minimum, the consultant must be able to talk freely with workers during the walk-through to help identify and judge the nature and extent of specific hazards and, where requested, to evaluate your safety and health program.
The consultant will study either your entire operation or focus on those specific areas, conditions, or hazards for which you have requested assistance. He/she will also offer advice and assistance on other safety or health hazards that might not be covered by current OSHA standards but that still pose safety or health risks to your employees.
In a complete review of a company's operation, the consultant will look for mechanical and physical hazards by examining the structural condition of the building, the condition of the floors and stairs, and the exits and fire protection equipment. During the tour of the workplace, he/she will review the layout for adequate space in aisles and between machines; check equipment, such as forklifts; and examine storage conditions. Control of electrical hazards and machine guards also will be considered.
The consultant will check the controls used to limit worker exposure to environmental hazards, such as toxic substances and corrosives and especially air contaminants. He/she will check to see if all necessary technical and personal protective equipment is available and functioning properly. Also, the consultant will note any problems workers may encounter from exposure to noise, vibration, extreme temperatures, or unusual lighting on approaches and offer means and techniques commonly used for the elimination or control of hazards.
Work practices, including the use, care, and maintenance of hand tools and portable power tools, as well as general housekeeping, are of interest to the consultant. He/she will want to talk with you and workers about items such as job training, supervision, safety and health orientation and procedures, and equipment maintenance and repair.
In addition, the consultant will want to know about any ongoing safety and health programs your firm has developed. If your firm does not have a program or if you would like to make improvements, the consultant will, at your request, offer advice and technical assistance on establishing or improving a program. Management and worker attitude toward safety and health will be considered in this analysis as well as current injury and illness data. The consultant will need to know about how you and your employees communicate about safety and health as well as any in-plant safety and health inspection programs.
Following the walk-through survey, the consultant will meet with you and the participating employees in a closing conference. Separate closing conferences with the management and employee representative may be held. This session offers the consultant an opportunity to discuss measures that are already effective and any practices that warrant improvement. During this time, you and the consultant can discuss problems, possible solutions, and time frames for eliminating or controlling any "serious" hazards identified during the walk-through.
In rare instances, the consultant may find an "imminent danger" situation during the walk-through. In such situations, an employer must take immediate action to protect all affected workers. If the consultant finds a hazard that is considered "serious" under OSHA criteria, he/she will work with you to develop a mutually acceptable plan and schedule to eliminate or control that hazard. During this time, you are required to advise affected employees of the hazards and to notify them when the hazards are corrected. Union representatives must be provided with a copy of the hazards found. Consultants offer general approaches and options as well as technical assistance on the correction of hazards when they have the expertise.
The consultant may also offer suggestions for establishing, modifying, or adding to the company's safety and health program in order to make such programs more effective. Such suggestions could include worker training, changing work practices, methods for holding supervisors and employees accountable for safety and health, and various methods of promoting safety and health.
After the closing conference, the consultant will send you a written report explaining the findings and confirming any correction period agreed upon. The report may also include suggested means or approaches for eliminating or controlling hazards as well as recommendations for making your safety and health program effective. You will also receive and be required to post a list of those hazards identified during the consultation visit. You will be required to make information about corrective methods proposed by the consultant and other-than-serious hazards identified available to employees and their representatives. If a union representative participates in the consultative visit with the consultant, a copy of the list of hazards must be made available to that representative. The list of hazards may be posted electronically.
You are, of course, free to contact consultants for additional assistance at any time.
Ultimately, you must correct "serious" hazards so that each consultation visit achieves its objective-effective worker protection. If an employer fails or refuses to eliminate or control an identified "serious" hazard (or any "imminent danger") according to the plan and any extensions granted subsequently, that situation may be referred from consultation to the appropriate OSHA enforcement office for review and action. This is a rare occurrence.
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