A new OSHA partnership with the Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) and the Department of Labor's Office of Small Business Programs (OSBP) should help small businesses improve their safety and health performance.

That's the goal of the agreement, which establishes a comprehensive effort to improve the safety and health performance of small businesses that receive outreach and training services. The partnership also aims to increase small business participation in OSHA technical assistance and cooperative programs.

"This partnership sets in motion a new working relationship that addresses safety and health issues unique to our nation's small businesses," said OSHA Administrator John L. Henshaw, who has made it clear since taking charge of the agency that partnering with trade associations, unions and professional societies to encourage compliance assistance is a priority. "Together, we can make a real difference by delivering the training and outreach small businesses need to improve their safety and health programs."

The partners will identify interested small businesses that want to learn more about safety and health, need assistance with program development, or wish to be recognized through OSHA's Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) or the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP), which is designed for small businesses that undergo free comprehensive safety and health consultation.

"This agreement directly supports the Department's commitment of shifting the emphasis of regulatory programs from after-the-fact enforcement to compliance assistance and prevention, and nurtures our ongoing efforts to build results-oriented partnerships with the small business community," said OSBP Director June Robinson.

Among the partnership's objectives are improving the communication of OH&S information to the small business community, facilitating referrals and assistance utilizing OSHA's cooperative programs and providing safety and health training.

The initial phase of the partnership will focus on providing information and training regarding OSHA's new recordkeeping standard.