The Partnership for Illinois Small Businesses (Partnership) assists the Illinois Small Business Development Center Network (SBDCN) to provide regulatory compliance assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses. During the past year, the Partnership has delivered over 30 training sessions to small employers in Illinois. In addition to the
OSHA "10-Hour" training course, training topics have included bloodborne pathogens, accident investigation, recordkeeping, and an overview of employer safety and health responsibilities.
The Partnership also has developed a four-hour training workshop entitled "Machinery and Machine Safeguarding," with an accompanying video and workbook. The video, produced in both English and Spanish, has been distributed to small businesses in Illinois and is also used by the OSHA Training Institute at its education centers across the country.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the partners, these training sessions are offered at a low cost, delivered at convenient locations throughout the state, and are well attended. In fact, more than 500 employers have attended the Partnership's training sessions to date, ultimately impacting over 8,500 employees. These attendees have consistently given the sessions high ratings, with evaluations averaging over 4.5 on a 5.0 scale. Moreover, participants have praised both the informative nature and casual atmosphere of the sessions.
In addition to providing valuable regulatory compliance information to small business employers in a non-threatening environment, the training sessions appear to alleviate the reservations that some small employers seem to have about direct contact with a regulatory agency such as OSHA. Because of their existing relationship with the SBDCN, the participants express a greater level of comfort interacting with OSHA at the SBDCN-hosted training sessions. SBDCN also encourages its small business clients to make use of the safety and health services of the Illinois Onsite Safety and Health Consultation Program.
The SBDCN has been pleased with the results of the Partnership. According to Mark Petrilli, State Director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC), "for the SBDC Network, the Partnership is yet another resource that is available to better serve the needs of small business clients in obtaining regulatory compliance assistance and information. We appreciate the cooperation and dedication of OSHA and the Onsite Consultation Program that has made this Partnership work for Illinois small businesses."
The goals of the Partnership are to enhance the SBDCN's existing outreach and training activities; to improve awareness of OSHA regulations among small businesses; to increase small businesses use of OSHA technical and training assistance and their participation in OSHA cooperative programs; and to improve the safety and health performance of small businesses.
The SBDCN, working in partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the U.S. Department of Defense, and colleges and universities, provides free counseling and management assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners in 60 statewide locations in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is the lead economic development agency for the State of Illinois and is home to both the SBDCN and the Illinois Onsite Safety and Health Consultation Program (Consultation Program). Since the SBDCN was founded in 1984, it has used this organizational structure to work informally with the Consultation Program on safety and health compliance issues for small businesses. With the establishment of the Partnership in 2002, the SBDCN sought to formalize its working relationship with OSHA and utilize the agency's expertise to a greater degree.
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