OSHA Collaborates with Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEP) to Protect Workers

Company: National Institute of Standards and Technology

In October 2014, OSHA’s Directorate of Cooperative and State Programs (DCSP) reached out to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to set up a meeting to discuss how OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program could collaborate with NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) members to protect workers at small manufacturing businesses. Because the two organizations offer services to small businesses in high hazard industries, it seemed logical for OSHA and NIST to work together on some mutually beneficial efforts.

MEP’s strategic objective is to create value for all manufacturers, with a particular focus on small and mid-sized enterprises, which represent nearly 99% of manufacturing firms in the U.S. MEPs provide support to individual manufacturers through its nationwide network of local centers made up of teams of experts and business professionals. According to its website "MEP puts manufacturers in position to develop new products and customers, expand into global markets, adopt new technology, reshore production, and more. And because of its direct contact with manufacturers, MEP serves as a valuable bridge to other organizations that share a passion for enhancing the manufacturing community."

OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program offers free and confidential safety and occupational health advice to small and medium-sized businesses in all states across the country and in several territories with priority given to high-hazard worksites. These services are separate from enforcement and do not result in penalties or citations. Highly skilled consultants who participate in the program are employed by state agencies or universities and work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing a safety and health management system.

After discussions with NIST, DCSP determined that there were opportunities for collaboration between MEPs and OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program.

In the three short months since exploring collaborative relationships with NIST’s MEPs, OSHA has written an article about the On-site Consultation Program that NIST posted on the MEP blog, presented a webinar for MEP members to introduce them to OSHA’s free and confidential program, and participated in meetings involving the Interagency Network of Enterprise Assistance Providers (INEAP), whose mission is to assist small businesses through collaborations and partnerships that enable more effective service delivery and implementation. DCSP learned about INEAP through NIST and is now scheduled to present about OSHA’s On-site Consultation Program during an INEAP meeting scheduled for January 21, 2015 at the Appalachian Regional Commission in Washington, DC.

In 2015, DCSP plans to encourage all OSHA On-site Consultation Projects to pursue collaborative relationships with MEPs in their state and invite NIST to present about MEP at the On-site Consultation Training conference in the spring. By working together, DCSP believes OSHA and NIST can protect workers and provide valuable, cost-saving services to small manufacturers.