Getting With the Programs

Shutterstock/ Panchenko Vladimir
Shutterstock/ Panchenko Vladimir
Published On
Mar 15, 2020

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration outreach programs help employers to achieve a safer workplace; examples include the OSHA Alliance Program, OSHA Strategic Partnership Program, Voluntary Protection Programs, Challenge Program and the Safety and the Health Achievement Recognition Program.

Under the OSHA Alliance Program, OSHA works in conjunction with unions, consulates, trade associations, professional organizations, faith and community-based groups, businesses and educational institutions to promote safety and health on the job. Alliances with employers and employer groups must include worker representatives.

According to OSHA guidance, Alliance Program participants work with OSHA “to develop and share information with workers and employers to help prevent injuries, illnesses, and fatalities in the workplace and to educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

The goal of the program is to increase awareness of OSHA’s Rulemaking and Enforcement Initiatives. This is achieved through education and training and by sharing information on OSHA’s regulatory agenda and opportunities to participate in the rulemaking process. The program also focuses on National Emphasis Programs, development of compliance assistance materials and participation in various forums and groups to promote safety and health.

The OSHA Strategic Partnership Program allows OSHA to partner with employers, workers, professional organizations, trade associations, labor groups and industry stakeholders. These partnerships are intended to encourage and assist in the reduction of major job hazards and to improve overall workplace safety. OSHA Strategic Partnerships exist with major corporations, government agencies, large construction projects and private sector industries where OSHA has jurisdiction. A majority of these partnerships are run out of regional OSHA offices.

As an electrical worker, one of the most significant strategic partnerships is the Electrical Transmission and Distribution (ET&D) partnership. The ET&D is intended to protect linemen and other workers in the industry. The partnership is composed of construction workers, the IBEW and trade associations, including NECA.

Since the partnership’s inception in 2004, the ET&D has reduced fatalities, delivered an ET&D industry-specific OSHA training course, developed best practices to reduce the number of hazardous incidents, created a safety video, launched a mobile app and established a national Electrical Safety Stand Down.

OSHA renewed its partnership with the ET&D in late 2018. At that time, Loren Sweatt, acting assistant secretary of labor for ccupational safety and health, stated in a news release, “Through this long-term partnership, OSHA and ET&D have made a positive impact related to the safety and health of more than two million electrical workers. Most importantly, this partnership is identifying and addressing hazards that lead to injuries and fatalities among electrical workers.”

The Voluntary Protection Programs allow OSHA to recognize industry and federal agency employers and workers that have effective safety and health management systems in place and have injury and illness rates below national Bureau of Labor Statistics averages. Through these programs, management, labor and OSHA work cooperatively and proactively to prevent fatalities, injuries and illnesses by focusing on hazard prevention and control, work site analysis, training, management commitment and worker involvement. To participate in this program, employers must apply to OSHA and undergo a stringent on-site evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals. OSHA re-evaluates participants every three to five years. Participants are exempt from OSHA programmed inspections while in the program.

In 2004, OSHA piloted the Challenge Program to give employers and workers a channel to work with OSHA to develop or enhance their safety and health programs. OSHA-approved, volunteer, third-party challenge administrators (provided through the program) assist with workplace safety through mentoring, training and progress tracking. Assess, learn and develop are three stages to the OSHA Challenge Program. The program helps participants assess existing safety and health programs, provide education and training, and develop strategies, programs and policies.

The final cooperative initiative is the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program, which identifies small businesses that have used OSHA’s on-site consultation services and have exemplary safety and health programs.

According to OSHA literature, “Acceptance of your work site into SHARP from OSHA is an achievement of status that singles you out among your business peers as a model for work site safety and health.”

About the Author

Tom O'Connor

Safety Columnist

Tom O'Connor is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Reach him at


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