Maine’s Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette said in a statement Wednesday that the state’s Department of Labor is opposed to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) changes to the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program award (SHARP).
The SHARP award is geared towards small workplaces with less than 250 workers. Under the previous rules, OSHA has allowed the states flexibility to interpret that rule, allowing companies’ individual worksites to participate if the particular worksite has less than 250 workers.
But under the new changes that went into effect in November, companies whose total employee count is 250 or more would no longer be able to participate in the SHARP award program even if they have worksites that have less than 250 workers.
“The SHARP award is for companies that have worked with our safety consultation programs and have achieved our safety rating and an injury rating that’s less than the industry average for their kind of business,” a Maine Department of Labor spokesperson said. Under the new rules, certain worksites with fewer than 250 employees are no longer able to participate in free safety consultation and inspection programs because their companies’ overall number of employees is 250 or more.
Larger companies can participate in OSHA’s sister program called VPP (Voluntary Protection Programs) but that program requires certain fees for companies to join. In addition, VPP does not provide the free safety consulting and inspection services that the SHARP program offers.
Paquette noted that Maine has the highest number of SHARP certified worksites in New England. Fewer than 2,000 worksites in the U.S. have earned SHARP certification. Maine currently has 68 SHARP worksites.
“Our program is strong and this change would undercut the great strides we have made in lowering worker injury rates,” said Paquette. “The federal government is looking to make money off these smaller worksites and, as a result, discouraging workplace safety.”
To qualify for SHARP, companies must undergo a comprehensive audit, correct all hazards identified during an onsite health and safety consultation, demonstrate that effective safety and health programs are in place and maintain injury rates below the industry average for the last year of completed data.
After awarding the SHARP designation, OSHA removes the worksite from its general scheduled inspection list for two years. If the company continues to meet all conditions of the program, the SHARP designation may be renewed for another two years.
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