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The purpose of this communication is to provide clarification with regard to policies for onsite verification and programmed inspection exemption for construction industry participants in the OSHA Strategic Partnership Program (OSPP). This clarification is consistent with policies included in the OSPP Directive, CSP 03-02-002, and provides flexibility for developing partnership agreements that offer exemption benefits. Specifically, this clarification deals with the scope of onsite enforcement verification needed to offer a programmed inspection exemption to an OSPP participant in the construction industry under an Area, Region or National partnership.
OSHA allows several avenues for employers to work cooperatively to improve workplace safety and health performance. One such venue is the OSPP. Developed in 1998, OSPP is open to participants with a broad level of safety and health achievement. While the participation requirements are less stringent than those for the Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP), OSPP offers greater flexibility in the scope and focus of activities. Participant commitment to partnership goals is verified by one of three methods (offsite verification, onsite non-enforcement verification and onsite enforcement inspection). Benefits correlate to the level of commitment. Exemption from programmed inspections is only offered to partners who agree to the onsite enforcement inspection method of verification.
In February of 2005, OSHA issued a revised OSPP Directive. Among the changes was a system that permits a construction participant to receive an exemption from programmed inspections after OSHA verifies the employer's safety and health performance though enforcement verification inspections. Under the system, the number of onsite enforcement inspections needed to verify a participant's performance and grant an OSHA programmed inspection exemption is based on the participant's total number of active construction sites within a specified geographic boundary. This verification process is informally known as the "tiered approach" and is as follows:
After launching the revised OSP Directive, feedback from both our stakeholders and Regional Administrators indicated that in many situations the tiered approach policy cannot practically be implemented and that more flexibility is needed. Section XIV.D of the Directive states: “A partnership agreement may provide for a different number of inspections, if the particular circumstances indicate it would be appropriate and the agreement is approved by the Directorate of Construction and the Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs.” This section gives OSHA flexibility to deviate from the “tiered approach” when appropriate. Three Regions formally requested and received approval to use alternative verification methods and another Region informally inquired about doing so.
As a result of stakeholder and Region feedback, the Directorates of Cooperative and State Programs and Construction, in coordination with the Office of the Solicitor, worked to further clarify the verification/exemption policy to meet the following objectives:
Effective immediately, the following verification/exemption policy may be incorporated into National, Regional and Area Office partnerships:
Upon entry into an OSHA Strategic Partnership (OSP), a construction participant advises the appropriate OSHA Area/Regional/National office of the number and location of active sites covered by the partnership (NOTE: This list is updated annually). Based on this list and the criteria detailed in Attachment A, OSHA determines the number of onsite enforcement inspections a partner must undergo to gain a programmed inspection exemption for all of its worksite within a specified geographic area. OSHA may use the “tiered approach”, an approved alternative, or follow the guidelines below to make this determination.
During an onsite enforcement inspection, OSHA may issue citations and penalties. Onsite enforcement inspections are performed in accordance with the applicable sections of the FIRM and other enforcement guidance documents. In addition to assessing compliance with OSHA standards, the inspector should assess the participant's progress in meeting the requirements of the OSP agreement and implementing an effective safety and health management system. An effective safety and health management system will satisfy the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.20 and 29 CFR 1926.21. Participants may refer to the 1989 OSHA Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines, FRN 54:3904-3916 for guidance.
The Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs, in coordination with the Directorate of Construction and the Office of the Solicitor, will revise the OSPP Directive to incorporate the aforementioned policy clarifications to provide for an alternative to the tiered inspection approach. The proposed new policy will be published for public comment in a Federal Register Notice. Public comments may address the aforementioned clarification policy and/or additional recommended verification strategies.
In determining the number of sites at which to perform onsite enforcement inspections, OSHA will consider such factors as: