When it comes to operating a small business, owners may feel overwhelmed by the responsibility, and may also lack the time to focus on, develop and implement a workplace safety plan. Fortunately for entrepreneurs in our state, the N.C. Department of Labor (NCDOL) has a resource that is designed specifically to assist with safety and health issues. The NCDOL has an on-site Consultative Services program where a safety and health professional can meet with you virtually or on-site and review your areas of concern. They can review written programs, or they can walk through your establishment and identify hazards that may result in injury, without fear of an Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) citation or penalty.
“One feature of our service that is great for employers is that they remain in control of the interaction and can guide our visit to meet their needs,” OSH Consultative Services Bureau Chief Kevin O’Barr said.
The consultants employed in NCDOL’s Consultative Services Bureau have years of experience and work across North Carolina. They will identify safety and health hazards in a business and assist with recommendations to reduce and eliminate those hazards. The confidential service has a fantastic bonus – employers who have an open case with the Consultative Services Bureau are not eligible to be considered for a random OSH inspection. Inspections prompted by an accident, complaint or other unprogrammed event could still proceed.
“Taking advantage of this free proactive Consultative Services program will assist North Carolina employers with improving their safety and health programs,” Labor Commissioner Josh Dobson said. “We want to partner with the business community to make North Carolina the safest place to work.”
The Consultative Services Bureau aims to help small and high hazard employers and can tailor its services to the exact needs of the employer. For employers that have an interest in health hazards such as chemical exposures, noise, bloodborne pathogens, etc. the health consultants can assist with monitoring and measurement of exposure levels. For employers that have an interest in safety hazards such as electrical and mechanical issues, the consultants can help identify solutions. “We can help employers get in compliance with the standards, but more importantly we are hoping to eliminate hazards from the jobsite and help prevent illness and injury to employees,” O’Barr said.
“The employers receive our services at no cost, and we issue no citations or financial penalties,” O’Barr said. Does the free expertise come with a catch? No, the only employer obligation is to repair the serious hazards identified during the visit and that is the purpose of inviting the consultant in the first place. If the employer is concerned about the number of hazards being identified, they can stop the visit and work on the issues identified up to that point and then continue through the rest of the facility later.
Starting the consultative process is easy to initiate. To submit a request form online, visit Request for Free Safety and Health Consultation | NC DOL. You may also print the attached request form and send it to our office by email, mail or fax. If you have trouble locating your unemployment insurance ID number, the NCDOL office can help find it. For additional information, please call us at 919-707-7846 to discuss what service would be most useful to your business.