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Safety Check: OSHA Offers Anonymous Online Safety Awareness Tool
OSHA offers anonymous hazard awareness tool to help small businesses identify potential problems and locate applicable standards and remedies.
Date Posted: 11/1/2012
Would you like to determine safety and workplace hazards without having a safety inspector visit your facility? Are you concerned about potential hazards yet you do not want to risk additional legal exposure associated with outside consultants? The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has developed an interactive diagnostic tool that helps companies anonymously identify potential workplace hazards and suggests potential remedies.
Called the OSHA Hazard Awareness Advisor, this Web-based survey tool takes about 10-20 minutes to complete. It is updated regularly to reflect the latest rule changes. Although the Advisor does not cover everything, it is a good tool to raise awareness of potential problem areas that are common in many facilities across the country.
There is no charge to use the tool and it does not track your information and is completely anonymous according to Edward Stern, former director of evaluation and analysis for OSHA. Stern pioneered the development of this tool while at OSHA. This Advisor helps general industry employers identify possible safety and health hazards in their workplace and directs them to OSHA standards addressing those hazards. It should be particularly helpful to small employers without the means to hire safety and health professionals to evaluate their workplace.
The Advisor is one of a series of elaws (electronic law assistance tools) developed by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to help employers and employees understand their rights and responsibilities under federal employment laws.
The Advisor will ask a series of questions designed to identify your potential hazards. Following the questions, the Advisor will prepare a text report identifying hazards that may be present in your workplace, providing best practices or strategies to control them, and listing applicable standards which you can later review.
If your workplace is reviewed periodically by an experienced industrial hygienist and by an experienced safety professional, then you probably do not need this Advisor, according to OSHA. You can also contact OSHA directly if you want a free inspection from a consultant to actually conduct a site visit. One problem with this approach is that records from that visit can be used against you in the case of a future incident or inspection. A nice benefit about the online Advisor tool is that it is completely anonymous. But if you keep records of the tool’s report it could be requested by OSHA if a legal showdown ensues. You could still use the assessment tool to identify potential concerns and then destroy the report once you are done with it.
There are some drawbacks to using the tool. It requires you to interpret and make best guess assessments about proper compliance measures. It is not a substitute for OSHA regulations or a live audit. It is not able to tell you all of the actual or potential hazards in a workplace.
Another way you can inspect your facility without fear of legal blowback is to hire a safety consultant that is actually your lawyer on those areas of your business. Then any inspection your
lawyer does can be considered protected by attorney client privilege. The National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) has worked for years with Adele Abrams, a noted safety attorney and consultant. The NWPCA offers a complete safety program handbook as well as other assistance. Some pallet companies have hired Abrams directly to improve their compliance and reduce legal liability. Abrams can be reached at 301/595-3520 or www.safety-law.com.
There are a number of things you can do to improve the overall safety conditions of your operation without putting your company at risk of larger fines. Refusing to take proactive measures can be a problem if OSHA comes knocking on your door in the future.
Editor’s Note: The above is for general information purposes only and is not supposed to be taken as legal advice. It is suggested that you contact a safety law expert if you have a specific situation that needs to be addressed.
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