For businesses seeking to lower employee absenteeism, work-related accidents and expensive lawsuits, as well as avoid hefty fines handed out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a representative with On-Site Safety & Health Consultation offered plenty of helpful advice during a presentation to the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce members.
Daniel Stark, assistant director/program manager at On-Site, a service of the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, was guest speaker for the chamber’s monthly Business and Community Luncheon.
In her introduction of Stark, Candy Zarcone, the chamber’s director of Member Engagement and Business Development, said, “Addressing workforce issues is something we take very seriously as part of our mission at the Farmington Regional Chamber. We have a lot of discussions and meetings about workforce development, apprenticeships, internships — you’ve heard some of that over the last few months.
“Safety is an issue. It is said that nationwide a worker is injured every seven seconds. With this in mind we have several resources that we wanted to let you know about as chamber members. I know that many of us work in offices and probably our biggest safety threat we face is a paper cut, but you probably know someone in manufacturing or in other sectors that might need this information.
"When you share that with them, you’ve just garnered a little good will with them because they need these resources, too.”
Stark began his presentation by explaining what services On-Site Safety & Health Consultation provides its clients.
“We are invited in by small businesses throughout the state of Missouri to help them get in compliance with OSHA,” he said. “We not only help them to get into compliance with OSHA but hopefully develop a good safety and health management system.”
“Richard Nixon signed into law the OSHA Act in 1970 which reserved the right for employees to have a safe and helpful workplace,” Stark said. “It was about 1975 that OSHA began to realize that a lot of small businesses out there were having a really hard time getting in compliance with OSHA regulations, so what they did was establish an OSHA consultation program that’s funded through the states — that’s 90 percent federally funded and 10 percent state funded.
“We actually got going in Missouri when Gov. [Joseph P.] Teasdale signed into law an executive order in January 1978 which established the program. We first started doing our consultations in October of 1979, so we’ve been around a little while. Basically, what we do is we conduct an OSHA-type mock inspection. The two main reasons why we can provide a good OSHA-type mock inspection is that we go to the same training that the OSHA compliance officers do, and we get copies of the citations that OSHA’s writing — not only in St. Louis but Kansas City.”
Stark explained that the first thing businesses need to focus on are the things that OSHA is actually citing.
“We can pass that information along to you, so you are that much more prepared in case you have an OSHA inspection,” he said. “With the program there are no fines, penalties or citations. We don’t do that — OSHA does that. The program is free because we are 90 percent federally funded and 10 percent state funded. We can conduct consultations at no cost. The program is also completely confidential. We don’t tell anybody where we go — especially OSHA. That is protected by federal law.
“The only obligation that the employer has when they participate in the consultation program is, they have to correct any serious hazards that we identify while we were there — or any imminent danger situations. We give the employer a certain timeframe to correct those things. However, if an employer utilizes the program and refuses to correct a serious hazard or an imminent danger situation, then we have to refer that employer back to OSHA compliance.”
Stark noted, however, that since the program came into existence in 1979, there has never been an OSHA referral made.
“We’re talking about 36,000 visits,” he said. “So, we really bend over backwards to make sure to help that employer get those serious hazards corrected.”
In order for an employer to have On-Site run a mock inspection at their business, they must fill out an application and set the inspection’s scope.
“We can’t just come in and tell the employer we’re going to do XYZ,” Stark said. “The employer always sets the scope of the visit. That’s what we’re there for. With that said, we categorize businesses for a limited visit where we look at one specific type of issue or a full-service visit where we look at everything OSHA could potentially cite you on. A consultation could be a safety consultation or a health consultation — or both.
“What’s the difference? A safety consultation involves hazards that are instantaneous injury. Health consultations are looking at things that are cumulative that could hurt you over a long period of time — like noise, dust, chemical exposure — that kind of thing. Once an employer makes a request, it is put on a backlog. We are required to maintain a backlog because we have to maintain, or receive, the highest priority per companies that are small and high hazard. Then the consultant will go ahead and schedule the consultation at that time.”
Following the consultation, Stark said the On-Site representative will sit down with the employer for a closing conference where any problems that are found are discussed. An agreement is then made for correction due dates.