IN FOCUS: OSHA's Proposed Connecticut Cooperative Program
In the near future, the Hartford and Bridgeport area offices of OSHA intend to implement a statewide safety and health program targeting Connecticut employers with the highest lost work day rates based on a 1995 survey. Selected employers will be invited to participate in voluntary hazard identification and abatement plans, or face traditional inspections with the potential for citations and penalties.
Q What employers can expect to be targeted under the Connecticut Cooperative Program?
A The Connecticut Cooperative Program is a three year experiment that will target employers in Connecticut's manufacturing sector as well as certain non-manufacturing businesses, including nursing and personal care facilities. One of the stated objectives of the Connecticut Cooperative Program is to allow the OSHA Connecticut Area Offices to focus staff and resources toward those employers who experience high rates of injury and illness. Another stated objective is to leverage limited OSHA resources by fostering the concept of "cooperative" compliance to Connecticut employers.
Q What are the obligations for employers who agree to participate in the program?
AThe Area Director will send the targeted employer a letter describing the program and giving 45 days to respond. If the employer agrees to participate, then the employer will be given an additional 60 days to identify and address deficiencies in its safety and health programs, identify and mitigate workplace hazards, and develop and implement an action plan. The employer is expected to conduct a comprehensive workplace inspection by either "competent individuals within the company" or by a qualified third party. The employer must document each hazard identified along with the corrective action taken, notify affected employees and prioritize corrective action to ensure that employees are removed from the hazard as soon as practicable, and implement interim protective measures until corrective action is completed. Regular workplace inspections must continue to be conducted to verify corrective actions and identify any new hazards.
Those employers that agree to participate will be placed on a "secondary inspection" list, and each shall be scheduled for a limited OSHA inspection. In general, this limited inspection will focus on the employer's injury and illness profile, and will take into account the employer's hazard identification survey and corrective action. Following this limited inspection, a closing conference will occur whereby deficiencies in the safety and health program will be identified and the compliance officer will make recommendations for improvements. Although program participants may still be subject to citation, they will be given maximum consideration for penalty reduction. However, they also must provide verification that acceptable corrective action was completed, or risk a follow-up inspection where violations could be cited with a higher gravity classification and substantial monetary penalties.
Q What if an affected employer elects not to participate in the program?
A Employers who elect not to participate in the Program by failing to submit a timely response to OSHA's letter will be scheduled for a comprehensive programmed enforcement inspection, more commonly referred to as a "wall-to-wall" inspection. OSHA will give high priority to scheduling inspections of employers who elect not to participate in the program.