Consultative activity by a State shall be conducted independently of any OSHA enforcement activity.
The consultative activity shall have its own identifiable managerial staff. In States with Plans approved under section 18 of the Act, this staff will be separate from the managing of compliance inspections and scheduling.
The identity of employers requesting onsite consultation, as well as the file of the consultant's visit, shall not be provided to OSHA for use in any compliance activity, except as provided for in § 1908.6(f)(1) (failure to eliminate imminent danger,) § 1908.6(f)(4) (failure to eliminate serious hazards,) paragraph (b)(1) of this section (inspection deferral) and paragraph (b)(4) of this section (recognition and exemption program).
An onsite consultative visit already in progress will have priority over OSHA compliance inspections except as provided in paragraph (b)(2) of this section. The consultant and the employer shall notify the compliance officer of the visit in progress and request delay of the inspection until after the visit is completed. An onsite consultative visit shall be considered "in progress" in relation to the working conditions, hazards, or situations covered by the visit from the beginning of the opening conference through the end of the correction due dates and any extensions thereof. OSHA may, in exercising its authority to schedule compliance inspections, assign a lower priority to worksites where consultation visits are scheduled.
The consultant shall terminate an onsite consultative visit already in progress where one of the following kinds of OSHA compliance inspections is about to take place:
Imminent danger investigations;
Other critical inspections as determined by the Assistant Secretary.
An onsite consultation visit may not take place while an OSHA enforcement inspection is in progress at the establishment. An enforcement inspection shall be deemed "in progress" from the time a compliance officer initially seeks entry to the workplace to the end of the closing conference. An enforcement inspection will also be considered "in progress" in cases where entry is refused, until such times as: the inspection is conducted; the RA determines that a warrant to require entry to the workplace will not be sought; or the RA determines that allowing a consultative visit to proceed is in the best interest of employee safety and health. An onsite consultative visit shall not take place subsequent to an OSHA enforcement inspection until a determination has been made that no citation will be issued, or if a citation is issued, onsite consultation shall only take place with regard to those citation items which have become final orders.
The recognition and exemption program operated by the OSHA consultation projects provide incentives and support to smaller, high-hazard employers to work with their employees to develop, implement, and continuously improve the effectiveness of their workplace safety and health management system.
Programmed Inspection Schedule.
When an employer requests participation in a recognition and exemption program, and undergoes a consultative visit covering all conditions and operations in the place of employment related to occupational safety and health; corrects all hazards that were identified during the course of the consultative visit within established time frames; has began to implement all the elements of an effective safety and health program; and agrees to request a consultative visit if major changes in working conditions or work processes occur which may introduce new hazards, OSHA's Programmed Inspections at that particular site may be deferred while the employer is working to achieve recognition and exemption status.
Employers who meet all the requirements for recognition and exemption will have the names of their establishments removed from OSHA's Programmed Inspection Schedule for a period of not less than one year. The exemption period will extend from the date of issuance by the Regional Office of the certificate of recognition.
When an employer requests consideration for participation in the recognition and exemption program under paragraph (b)(4) of this section, the provisions of § 1908.6(e)(7), (e)(8), (f)(3), and (f)(5) shall apply to other-than-serious hazards as well as serious hazards.
The advice of the consultant and the consultant's written report will not be binding on a compliance officer in a subsequent enforcement inspection. In a subsequent inspection, a compliance officer is not precluded from finding hazardous conditions, or violations of standards, rules or regulations, for which citations would be issued and penalties proposed.
The hazard identification and correction assistance given by a State consultant, or the failure of a consultant to point out a specific hazard, or other possible errors or omissions by the consultant, shall not be binding upon a compliance officer and need not affect the regular conduct of a compliance inspection or preclude the finding of alleged violations and the issuance of citations, or constitute a defense to any enforcement action.
In the event of a subsequent inspection, the employer is not required to inform the compliance officer of the prior visit. The employer is not required to provide a copy of the state consultant's written report to the compliance officer, except to the extent that disclosure of information contained in the report is required by 29 CFR 1910.1020 or other applicable OSHA standard or regulation. If, during a subsequent enforcement investigation, OSHA independently determines there is reason to believe that the employer: failed to correct serious hazards identified during the course of a consultation visit; created the same hazard again; or made false statements to the state or OSHA in connection with participation in the consultation program, OSHA may exercise its authority to obtain the consultation report.
If, however, the employer chooses to provide a copy of the consultant's report to a compliance officer, it may be used as a factor in determining the extent to which an inspection is required and as a factor in determining proposed penalties. When, during the course of a compliance inspection, an OSHA compliance officer identifies the existence of serious hazards previously identified as a result of a consultative visit, the Area Director shall have authority to assess minimum penalties if the employer is in good faith complying with the recommendations of a consultant after such consultative visit.
(Approved by the Office of Management and Budget under control number 1218-0110)
[49 FR 25094, June 19, 1984, as amended at 54 FR 24333, June 7, 1989, 65 FR 64292, October 26, 2000]