Small businesses, L&I address workplace safety

The state’s largest small-business group and Washington’s workplace watchdog have announced they are joining forces to prevent and reduce accidents on the job. The alliance between the 15,000-member NFIB/Washington and the WISHA Services Division of the state Department of Labor and Industries will work to provide small-business owners with encouragement and advice on use of the latest workplace-safety technology.

NFIB has a similar agreement with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and with two other states, Arizona and Ohio, but Washington’s is the first that includes a “safe harbor” for participating members from immediate penalties.

“By joining forces with NFIB, we make it easier for small businesses to work safely, and can give them credit for a job well done,” said Steve Cant, who leads Washington’s workplace safety and health program.

“As a small-business owner, I believe it is important to always provide a safe environment for our employees,” said Scottie Marable, owner of Bellevue-based Pinnacle Marketing and chairwoman of the 15,000-member NFIB/Washington Leadership Council. “This alliance will help educate us and allow us to self-audit without the concern and time-consuming nature of an audit by WISHA. Knowing that we now have time to fix any problems without being penalized right away makes good business sense. I truly appreciate the Department of Labor and Industries’ willingness to join in helping small businesses do the best job we can to prevent and reduce accidents on the job.”

Parts of the NFIB/WISHA agreement include cross advertising in each entity’s web sites and publications, providing materials such as manuals and CDs that teach workplace safety, having training sessions, offering on-site and remote consulting through the Evergreen Safety Council, and recognizing compliant small businesses.

Participating businesses will work with NFIB/Washington state to create a written safety plan, then they will have to conduct a self-audit that identifies specific steps required to bring their companies in compliance with WISHA. After completing their audit, businesses will have to complete their training and worksite changes identified in the audit. At the end of that process, they will receive their ‘Certificate of Completion,’ and for a 12-month period if WISHA conducts an inspection and violations are still found, businesses will have their penalties reduced if they make a correction or an abatement of the violation within 30 days.