by Emily Sixta
Many businesses don’t think about their safety plan until it is needed. However, ensuring your WA State required safety plan is not only up to date, but also that your employees are aware of what to do if someone were to be injured on the job, is critical.
L&I’s Consultation Program provides free, confidential, professional advice and assistance to Washington businesses, with 76 consultants statewide and 11 in Region 4 which reaches from Olympia to Vancouver. Within the program, they provide a variety of options depending on your safety needs such as Safety and Health, Risk Management and Ergonomic consultations.
There is a perception that only large businesses or certain higher risk industries would benefit from consultations. In fact, in speaking with Jim Lawrence and Pam Cant from L&I’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), they state that while they do work with larger businesses, the program is mostly set up for businesses under 25 employees because they most often lack the resources or department to cover what is needed. In fact, many of the issues that are uncovered, particularly in this region due to the larger concentration of state government and office workers, deal more with building maintenance, tripping hazards, ergonomics and janitorial chemicals that are not kept according to protocol.
The most common issue they provide support on is development of Accident Prevention Programs. Jim Lawrence, Region 4 Consultation Manager, explains that typically businesses either do not have one, or it is not effective or practiced. Also, many businesses get stuck on the safety program requirements, what is needed and how to cover these requirements within the safety plan. DOSH consultants are able to review your company’s program and provide helpful hints and direction, saving your business from running into costly fines and issues down the road due to an insufficient program. As Jim Lawrence states, “Use us. We’re here to help you, so take advantage of it.”
One hesitation businesses often share in scheduling a consultation is that they are concerned with being fined for an issue that may be uncovered when the consultation occurs. However, DOSH consultants are simply there to assist businesses and provide direction. Pam Cant, Consultation Operations Manager, reassures businesses that the only time they would report any findings is if what is deemed a “serious” issue is uncovered, and the business refuses to correct it. After each consultation, businesses will receive a report of any areas that are not up-to-code and are given typically around three days to fix any issues. However, if more time is needed, for instance if new equipment must be ordered or a contractor must be involved for building maintenance, consultants will happily work with the business to provide an extension.
What should you expect during a consultation? Jim Lawrence explains that consultations typically last at least four hours but can be all day, ultimately depending on the size of the business and the safety needs you ask them to cover. Consultations can be specific or comprehensive. At this time, L&I experts are conducting onsite consultations. Representatives will be wearing PPE and adhering to social distancing, however businesses can still take advantage of this excellent resource. Consultations are currently being scheduled about two days out, and the team will work with your business to find a time that is convenient. There’s no long wait to make sure your business is prepared.
By setting up a consultation, you can be sure that your business is compliant with WISHA – Washington Industrial Safety & Health Act rules and best practices, plus receive helpful tips to create a healthy workplace and ensure your business has an effective safety program. Voluntary compliance helps you avoid workplace injury claims and keep worker’s comp premiums down as much as possible.
To request a free consultation for your business with an L&I expert, visit the Labor & Industries website here.