Onsite consultations help implement worker health & safety

To encourage small businesses with 250 or fewer employees to take a proactive approach to workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides 90 percent of the funds necessary to run the free and confidential New Mexico State Occupational Health and Safety Bureau Consultation Program. The point is to help employers find workable and cost-effective ways to eliminate or control dangerous conditions and to create and implement a sustainable health and safety program.

Part of the program’s appeal, according to program manager Melissa Barker, is that it’s collaborative, involving business owners, employee representatives and NM OSHA in workplace health and safety. The participating company’s only obligation is to correct serious job safety and health hazards. The employer controls the scope of the onsite visit and can end it at any time.

Once NM OSHA receives a request to work with a business, it sends a consultant to the workplace at a prearranged time and convenes an introductory meeting with the employer and an employee representative to explain the process. Afterward, the group walks through the site and the consultant evaluates potential hazards in the physical environment and work practices and discusses the employer’s existing health and safety programs. During the closing conference, the consultant reviews his or her findings about what the employer is doing well and where improvements are needed; this information is reiterated in a written report that also documents any schedules the consultant and employer set to abate identified hazards or imminently dangerous situations.

Employers must post the list of serious hazards and correction deadlines after receiving it from the consultant for at least three days or until all hazards are corrected. Employees also are informed of hazards that were identified during the visit and what their employer has promised to do to correct them.

Participating in the program doesn’t guarantee that a company will pass an OSHA inspection, but employers learn what is required to comply with health and safety laws.

And they learn of the significant benefits of participating in the program: potential reduction of workplace accidents and lost work time, fewer fines and lower workers’ compensation insurance premiums and health care costs, and better retention as employees see that the company cares about their well-being.

To request a free and confidential onsite consultation, businesses should call (505) 476-8700 or visit the NM OSHA website at https://www.env.nm.gov/Ohsb_Website.