The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not just create and enforce workplace health and safety standards, it also offers programs and services to employers to help improve compliance. Designed to identify and correct job hazards as well as improve their injury and illness prevention programs, these programs and services are free of charge. One program of particular note is OSHA's Safety and Health Recognition Program, known as SHARP.
SHARP recognizes small employers who operate an exemplary safety and health management system. Acceptance of a worksite into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that singles that enterprise out among your business peers as a model for worksite safety and health. Upon receiving SHARP recognition, OSHA exempts that worksite from OSHA programmed inspections during the period that SHARP certification is valid.
To be eligible for participation in SHARP a business must have fewer than 250 workers at a site (and no more than 500 employees nationwide). The business must submit to an on-site consultation service, which is separate from enforcement and does not result in penalties or citations. To participate in SHARP, you must:
- Request a comprehensive consultation visit from the on-site consultation office, which involves a complete hazard identification survey
- Involve employees in the consultation process
- Correct all hazards identified by the consultant
- Implement and maintain a safety and health management system that, at a minimum, addresses OSHA's 1989 Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines
- Maintain the company's Days Away, Restricted, or Transferred (DART) rate and Total Recordable Case (TRC) rate below the national average for that industry
- Agree to notify the state's on-site consultation office prior to making any changes in the working conditions or introducing new hazards into the workplace
One huge benefit of SHARP is that participating companies proactively provide protection to workers from safety and health hazards. Also, by involving workers in the process of creating a culture that emphasizes a safe work environment, companies can improve communication between workers and management and boost worker morale.
When a company is recognized by OSHA for achieving SHARP approval, that company becomes recognized as a leader in the industry. Consequently, such companies are more likely to attract top-qualified employees seeking to join a company clearly at the forefront of its industry.
Finally, businesses who achieve SHARP status can save money by:
- Lowering workman's compensation insurance premiums
- Improving worker retention and reduce costly turnover
- Reducing worker days away from work, which may contribute to keep operations and production running smoothly.
Participation in SHARP does not eliminate the rights or responsibilities of owners or workers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Under this act, the following types of incidents can trigger an OSHA enforcement inspection, even at SHARP sites:
- Formal complaints
- Imminent danger situation
- Any other significant events, as directed by the Assistant Secretary of OSHA.