<< Back to Construction Outreach Program


Construction Safety and Health
Outreach Program
U.S. Department of Labor
OSHA Office of Training and Education
May 1996

OSHA Office of Training and Education - 1996

INTRODUCTION

Employers who want assistance in implementing effective safety and health programs to prevent the occurrence of injuries and illnesses that may result from exposure to hazardous workplace conditions and work practices can get it from a free consultation service largely funded by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The consultation program not only addresses immediate problems, but also offers advice and help in maintaining continued effective protection.

For the short term, consultants help employers identify and correct specific hazards. For the long term, they provide guidance in establishing or improving an effective safety and health program and offer training and education for employers and employees.

The service is given chiefly at the worksite, but limited services may be provided away from the worksite.

Primarily targeted for smaller businesses in higher hazard industries or with especially hazardous operations, the safety and health consultation program is completely separate from the inspection effort.

The service is also confidential. Your name and firm and any information about your workplace, plus any unsafe or unhealthful working conditions that the consultant uncovers, will not be reported routinely to the OSHA inspection staff. In addition, no citations are issued or penalties proposed as a result of a consultation.

Your only obligations are to allow the consultant to confer with employees in the course of the hazard survey and to correct any imminent dangers and other serious job safety and health hazards in a timely manner. You make these commitments before the consultant's visit.

Consultation is a cooperative approach to solving safety and health problems in the workplace. As a voluntary activity, it is neither automatic nor unexpected. You must request it.

BENEFITS

If you know what the hazards are in your workplace and ways to remedy them, you will be in a better position to comply with job safety and health requirements. The more you know about the safety and health aspects of your company's operations and ways to improve them, the better you can manage your firm in general.

The consultation program provides professional advice and assistance at no cost. When a consultant helps set up or strengthen a workplace safety and health program, safety and health activities become routine considerations rather then crisis-oriented responses.

To help employers develop an effective safety and health program, OSHA issued recommended guidelines for the effective management and protection of worker safety and health. The complete original text of the non-mandatory guidelines is found in the Federal Register (54 FR (18):3094-3916, January 26, 1989). An OSHA Handbook for Small Businesses (OSHA 2209) applies these guidelines to the special concerns of smaller business. A copy of the guidelines can be obtained from the OSHA Publications Office, U. S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Room N-3101, Washington DC 20210, or from the nearest OSHA regional or area office.

PROCEDURES

In the Consultation Program, the consultant is both student and teacher. The consultant studies each workplace and the employer's safety and health program. Based on this analysis, the consultant then applies his or her professional expertise to the specific problems and unique operations of the workplace and instructs the employer on these applications.

Consultation can go beyond the usual physical survey of the workplace for violations of Federal or State OSHA standards. The consultant may also point out work practices not yet covered by the standards that are likely to cause illness or injury and then advise and assist the employer in correcting them. Consultants may propose other measures directed toward improving a firm's occupational injury and illness experience. These measures include using self-inspection, emphasizing supervisory responsibility in promoting safety, identifying safety and health training needs, alerting workers to hazards, employing labor-management safety and health committees, and holding regular safety and health meetings with workers.

Full Service consultation visits include the following: (1) an appraisal of all mechanical and environmental hazards and physical work practices; (2) an appraisal of the present job safety and health program or the establishment of one; (3) a conference with management on findings; (4) a written report of recommendations and agreements; (5) training, and assistance with implementing recommendations; and (6) a follow-up to assure that any required corrections are made.

GETTING STARTED

How does the process begin? Consultation starts with your request, which may be a telephone call, a letter, or a personal contact. Some services, such as a safety and health review of proposed or new production processes, may be conducted at locations away from the employer's worksite.

When you request onsite services, your request will be prioritized according to the nature of your workplace and any existing backlog of requests. A consultant assigned to your request will contact you to set up a visit date based upon the priority assigned to your request, your work schedule, and the time needed for the consultant to prepare adequately to serve you. The consultant may encourage you to include within the scope of your request all working conditions at the worksite and your entire safety and health program. You have the option, however, to limit the consultation visit to a discussion of fewer, more specific, problems. However, if, during the on-site visit, the consultant observes hazards that are outside the scope of the request, he or she must notify you of their presence, and you must agree to correct any serious hazards.

OPENING CONFERENCE

Upon arrival at your worksite for a scheduled visit, the consultant will briefly review their role during the visit and will want to review your safety and health program with you. The consultant will explain the relationship between onsite consultation and OSHA enforcement activity and further explain your obligation to protect employees in the event that serious hazardous conditions are identified. The consultant will also explain that employee participation is encouraged during the consultation process.

THE WALKTHROUGH

During the walkthrough of the worksite, 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 hazardous conditions identified. At your request, assistance may also include education and training for you, your supervisory personnel, and other employees.

OSHA strongly encourages, but does not require, worker participation in the walkthrough. Better informed and alert workers 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 walkthrough 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 areas, conditions, or hazards for which you have requested assistance. He or she will also offer advice and assistance on other safety and health hazards that might not be covered by current Federal or State 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 which may be present by examining the worksite during the walk-through. The consultant will look for hazardous working conditions and the cause of those conditions at the construction worksite. Identified hazards will be addressed within the framework of how an effective safety and health program, if implemented, could address the control of such hazards and help prevent their reoccurrence.

The consultant will check any controls in place used to limit worker exposure to environmental hazards such as toxic substances and corrosives, especially air contaminants. He or 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, lighting, or other environmental factors, and will offer the means and techniques commonly used for the elimination or control of any hazards.

Work practices, including the use, care and maintenance of hand tools and portable power tools, as well as general housekeeping, are areas of interest to the consultant. He or she will want to talk with you and your workers about items such as job training, supervision, safety and health orientation and procedures, and the maintenance and repair of equipment.

In addition, the consultant will want to know about any on-going safety and health program your firm has developed. If your firm does not have a program or you would like to make improvements, the consultant will, at your request, offer advice an technical assistance on establishing a program or improving it. Management and worker attitude toward safety and health will be considered in this analysis, as well as current injury and illness data. The consultant also will need to know about how you and your employees communicate about safety and health as well as be aware of any safety and health inspection programs.

CLOSING CONFERENCE

Following the walkthrough, the consultant will meet with you in a closing conference. 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 hazards identified during the walkthrough.

In rare instances, the consultant may find an imminent danger situation during the walkthrough. In such situations, an employer must take immediate action to protect all affected workers. If the consultant finds a hazard that is considered to be a serious violation under OSHA criteria, he or she will work with you to develop a mutually acceptable plan and schedule to eliminate or control that hazard. During this time, OSHA encourages you to advise all affected employees of the hazards and to notify them when the hazards are corrected. Consultants offer general approaches and options as well as technical assistance on the correction of hazards when they have the expertise. As necessary, consultants will recommend other sources for specialized technical help.

The consultant may also offer suggestions for establishing, modifying, or adding to the company's safety and health program to make them 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.

HAZARD CORRECTION AND PROGRAM ASSISTANCE

After the closing conference, the consultant will send you a written report explaining the findings and confirming any correction periods 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 are, of course, free to contact consultants for additional assistance at any time.

Ultimately, OSHA does require completed action on 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 in accordance with the plan or any extensions granted, the situation would be referred to an OSHA enforcement office for review and action, as appropriate. This is a very rare occurrence.

SUMMARY

The consultation program provides several benefits for you as an employer. Onsite consultation will:

  • Help you recognize hazards in your workplace.
  • Suggest approaches or options for solving a safety or health problem.
  • Identify sources of help available to you if further assistance is needed.
  • Provide you with a written report that summarizes these findings.
  • Assist you in developing or maintaining an effective safety and health program.
  • Offer training and education for you and your employees at your workplace and, in some cases, away from the site.

Consultants will not:

  • Issue citations or propose penalties for violations of Federal or State OSHA standards.
  • Routinely report possible violations to OSHA enforcement staff except for unabated serious conditions.
  • Guarantee that any workplace will "pass" a Federal or State OSHA inspection.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Consultation is a highly successful program that generates great employer response. If you would like to receive additional information, contact one of the consultation programs or your OSHA regional or area office.

STATE PROGRAMS

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 encourages states to develop and operate their own job safety and health plans. States with plans approved under section 18(b) of the Act must adopt standards and enforce requirements that are at least as effective as Federal requirements. There are currently 25 state plan states: 23 covering private and public (state and local government) sectors and two covering public sector only. Within 6 months of federal standard's promulgation, plan states must adopt comparable standards. Until such time as a state standard is promulgated, Federal OSHA provides interim enforcement assistance, as appropriate, in these states.

VOLUNTARY PROTECTION PROGRAMS (VPPs)

The Voluntary Protection Programs are designed to recognize and promote effective safety and health program management. In the VPP, management, labor and OSHA establish cooperative relationships at workplaces that have implemented strong programs.

Sites approved for VPP's Star, Merit, and Demonstration programs have met, and must continue to meet, rigorous participation standards. Benefits for VPP participation include improved employee motivation to work safely, leading to better quality and productivity; lower lost-workday case rates; reduced workers' compensation and other injury- and illness-related costs; positive community recognition and interaction; further improvement and revitalization of already good safety and health programs; and partnership with OSHA.

For additional information about the VPP, contact the VPP manager in your OSHA regional office.

TRAINING AND EDUCATION

OSHA's area offices offer a variety of information services, such as publications, audiovisual aids, technical advice, and speakers for special engagements. OSHA's Training Institute in Des Plaines, IL, provides basic and advanced courses in safety and health for federal and state compliance officers, state consultants, federal agency personnel, and private sector employers, employees, and their representatives.

OSHA also provides funds to nonprofit organizations, through grants, to conduct workplace training and education in subjects where OSHA believes there is a need. Grants are awarded annually. Grant recipients are expected to contribute 20 percent of the total grant cost.

For more information on grants, training and education, contact the OSHA Office of Training and Education, 2020 S. Arlington Hts. Road, Arlington Hts., IL 60005, (847) 297-4810.

For further information on any OSHA program, contact your nearest OSHA area or regional office.