Safety and OSHA News

6 proposed OSHA reforms: Do you agree or disagree?

For the first time in 14 years, Democrats will have a President in the White House and significant majorities in both the House and Senate. While many newspapers have been calling on the Democrats to make major changes in monetary and foreign policies, one has chosen to target the nation’s workplace safety and health regulations.

The Las Vegas Sun‘s focus on workplace safety shouldn’t come as any surprise given that 12 workers were killed in industrial accident over the last 19 months during the construction boom on the Las Vegas strip.

But the Sun doesn’t rely just on its local statistics to make its case. It calls for major OSHA reforms based on an average of 15 worker deaths and 11,000 injuries per day in the U.S.

The Labor Department regularly applauds slight annual decreases in the fatality and injury rates.

But, in the fifth of a five-part editorial series, the paper asks, “can it really be a success that more than 5,400 people are killed every year on the job and more than 4 million are injured?”

The paper’s answer, as you may have guessed, is no.

And it has some ideas on what should be done.

Several areas to address

The Sun says Congress should address six areas:

  • OSHA’s budget: Congress should make a financial commitment to the agency, whose budget hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation, to give OSHA the money it needs.
  • Regulation: Congress needs to peel back hurdles to enacting new workplace safety and health regulations.
  • State OSHAs: Congress should either find a way to provide oversight and additional money for state OSHAs or end the state programs.
  • Philosophy: Inspectors should have the power to shut down a dangerous work site, and the agency’s penalties should be dramatically increased — including making criminal those willful violations of safety laws that result in injury.
  • Standards: Congress should turn standard-setting for toxins and hazards over to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
  • Statistics: Congress should mandate a full accounting of workplace injuries. Some estimates say the actual number of workplace injuries could be three times higher than what the government is currently reporting.

What do you think about these suggestions? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  • R. Macon

    The Sun reporter has no experience an construction safety and is trying to build a career from sensationalizing inaccurate information. She chooses to bash OSHA, GC, and Owner for the sole purpose of selling papers.

    I would ask the question of why she chooses not to ask the Unions where their responsibility lies in training their membership in safety since safety is apart of doing the job. Could it possibly be the head of the building trades is prompting her every word? As a union member some of these unions 10 hour for them?are truely an embarassment to training. Why else would they require the Owner or GC to do their

  • Diane A.

    People die. It’s a fact of this world. You can regulate safety to the point that it is impossible to work. I think there are enough safety rules in place. There will always be places that don’t conform. a person can choose to work in an unsafe place or get a job where safety is in place. There are always individual mistakes that cause accidents. Making criminals of owners/managers of a place of business that suffers the death of a worker is adding insult to injury. ‘Kick em while they’re down’ seems to be the philosophy of our current judicial system, lets not give them more power.

  • BOBBY LEWIS

    SOUNDS REASONABLE.

  • Rodney Adams

    OSHA should be self supporting with the fines gathered from violators. say 100 times the actual cost of fixing the violations, then companies may take violation and required standards a bit more to heart, equipment standards would increase, increase in jobs with the increase of inspectors and equipment providers. true the cost of doing business would increase, but the number of burials would decrease. this is about saving lives is it not. the safer we are the more productive we are.

  • Bill Ahearn

    No, there are to many requirements as it is. The paperwork involved with having to use simple PPE is rediculous. I can explain how to use ear plugs in about 5 seconds. But when you calculate the documentation of the required training, and the time I had to spend setting up these records, it cost me about 8 hrs of my time. OSHA is another reason why it is getting harder and harder to compete with companies oversees.

  • Richard Jones

    I believe OSHA budget should be increased to provide OSHA with the money it needs.

    Some regulations do need to be looked at and addressed. But this needs to be looked at very closely and logistiacally. When new regulations are put in place, companies have to spend more money to stay in compliance. We are in a ressesion right now, so would we be benifiting or hurting ourselves by placing new regs to industries.

    Why would you want to end a state OSHA program? This lets individuals know that the state they work in is committed to Safety and Health. Are state OSHA’s more stringent than the Federal OSHA? Absolutely, so why would you want to end state OSHA’s, these states are putting more indivuals to work and out in the field to help provide safety to workers.

    I believe we want to be careful on letting inspectors shut down facilities. I do believe that there are some dangerous sites out there that do not follow safety procedures. These companies do need to be shut down, or helped. This should be a committee agreement, not one indivuals determination.

  • Thor K. Bewrntson

    OSHA’s budget: Congress should make a financial commitment to the agency, whose budget hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation, to give OSHA the money it needs.
    Yes-Their budget should reflect the needs of the business.

    Regulation: Congress needs to peel back hurdles to enacting new workplace safety and health regulations.
    Yes-keep it simple-stop the partisonship

    State OSHAs: Congress should either find a way to provide oversight and additional money for state OSHAs or end the state programs.
    Why do we need the state programs. We need to provide a safe work environment for all employees, not just those in certain states.

    Philosophy: Inspectors should have the power to shut down a dangerous work site, and the agency’s penalties should be dramatically increased — including making criminal those willful violations of safety laws that result in injury.
    Yes-some of the businesses that I have observed need to be shut down. Some of these organizations actions are criminal and they should be prosecuted.

    Standards: Congress should turn standard-setting for toxins and hazards over to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
    I am not sure about this, I would need more information.

    Statistics: Congress should mandate a full accounting of workplace injuries. Some estimates say the actual number of workplace injuries could be three times higher than what the government is currently reporting.
    Yes-however why is this not taking place now, go to the budget and the limited number of OSHA audditors, correct those problems and this one would be corrected.

  • Kay Charles

    I agree with the proposals and I also agree – people are dying. Whether you know them personally or not, someone will not return home today due to a fatality at work. The statistics are such that we cannot point a finger at one person, organization or entity. Solutions require a combined effort from everyone involved.

  • Patrick S

    I agree that OSHA needs to be fully funded, and I agree that they should have the authority to shut down a truly unsafe work place. The only problem I have with this whole idea is the potential for the abuse of power and directive. I have seen too many times when some government agency decides they are the ‘end all and know all’. OSHA could benefit from some oversight too, but who is qualified?

  • Wendy H.

    I couldn’t agree more with the suggestions. Too many employers (and most, if you look at U.S. company records in other countries that don’t have any meaningful regulations) will not provide good safety and health conditions without a strong regulatory requirement to do so. Anyone thinking otherwise is choosing to ignore history and current behaviors. Europe has more regulations and requirements than we do and their businesses seem to be able to handle it.

  • Keith Rohlmeier

    You can educate workers until they are blue in the face, but the fact is people will still make bad decisions. The only way to stop on the job accidents is to take humans out of the work place. Maybe we should do away with automobiles, knives, guns, electricity and everything else that can injure a human being since we are talking about saving lives. More regulation will only take more workers out of the workplace since the employer has to pay for more regulation. I guess the best thing is to send everyone home and tell them to stay home for their own safety.

  • Norman Bowman WSO/CSS

    Instead of adding more regulations, we need to place more requirements on training and who is providing the training.

  • Safety Manager

    I agree that OSHA needs more funding. OSHA Inspectors and SCATS Consultants make less than the average Safety Manager on a Construction Site or in General Industry. However, I completely disagree with anything the Las Vegas Sun has to say regarding OSHA or employee Safety. Every article written by the Sun has incorrect information regarding OSHA standards. Employees should be held accountable for safety. If an employee has been trained and the employer can prove it by providing training documentation then the employee should be fined personally. Many of the construction deaths on the LV strip were caused by employee’s not following safety rules. One employee was tied off to a steel beam that he then cut and threw down to the trash, unfortunately, he and his harness/lanyard followed. That is a horrible accident but not something the employer or OSHA should be held responsible for.

  • Bob

    Couldn’t have set it better. One of many reasons why we can not compete in the Auto industry. SMART car get 57 mpg in Europe. In US it is more like realistic 30 because of all the crap put on the engines here. No more rules. Use common sense.

    “””No, there are to many requirements as it is. The paperwork involved with having to use simple PPE is rediculous. I can explain how to use ear plugs in about 5 seconds. But when you calculate the documentation of the required training, and the time I had to spend setting up these records, it cost me about 8 hrs of my time. OSHA is another reason why it is getting harder and harder to compete with companies oversees.”””

  • Steve Wiemeyer

    For most businesses it is the bottom line that impacts how a company operates. Punitive measures provide motivation, but not always the right type. So lets be more creative in how we encourage cuture of safety in all businesses. Perhaps we give tax incentives to those businesses who meet certain safety criteria, whether its training, investment in egromics, etc. Revamp the way the Work Comp rates are calculated to more heavly penalize poor safety records and while providing greater rewards for good safety records. There might even be bonuses (tax breaks) to a business if they reach a pre-determined bench mark. The State and Federal government contracts should have a high priority placed a companies safety record, besides the other criteria. Loans that have Federal dollars attached should have an addtional rating that strongly weighs a companies safety record.

    Retro active safety, which is much of OSHA’s function has its limitation’s. More more tax payer money and heavier regulations are not giving us the ROI that they once did. We now need to be more entrepenurial in our efforts to decrease accidents and increase a safe operating enviroment. I offered a few ideas in the above paragraph, but I am sure there may be other opportunities.

  • Safety Dude

    Agencies within the federal government have been given a free ride, with no oversight or fines. Many people feel an agency can not fine itself, but when you consider how many employees are in the government, we have to have more oversight over the government agencies.

  • Scott Roberts

    Although the suggestions are reasonable on the face I am always leery of more government. I work in manufacturing and am the Safety Manager. We have had OSHA visits both consultative and compliance at least annually for the 5 years I have been here. We have been commended for our proactive safety program and continue to strive to improve. I believe that it is primarily the responsibility of the managers and owners to provide a safe workplace. Having said that there do need to be significant financial and criminal penalties to those managers and owners who do not.

  • Steve

    Budget, Regulation, and Standards all have merit as issues to review. What is stated regarding State OSHA’s, Philosophy, and Statistics are all issues that are unfortunatly predictable and misguieded. The government’s ego is so selfconsuming it has completely parted with reality. A Congressman citing a single doctor’s comment that businesses bother him for information and is to be interpreted as business trying to find ways to “under report” is irresponsible and ignorant. OSHA’s claim that improved BLS data is the result of soley their own doing is insulting and damages its relationship with business which it has taken further than ever before. Both government positions conflict with one another regarding Statistics. They only account for themselves independently and shamelessly overlook and ignnore the real cause for improved BLS reporting figures. The real cause being how Business and Workforces throughout the country have invested in worker safety and have earned these results. To have them compromised by politically motived agents of the government is reprehensible. Clearly these three issues assure us a quick return to a more hostile relationship between business and OSHA/Gov’t of the past…which is too bad. Best to applaud the efforts of our workforces, business, and OSHA for their recent accomplishments since it appears it has already been forgotten.

  • Maria

    What changes need to be made are to protect employees from frivolous claims from workers that get hired and a week later they have a “back injury” even though they were trained and you find out the first thing they did was ask their doctors for Oxycodone and you see them out and about town with no problem. OSHA came to inspect us when we had a guy used his own defective tool to cut a piece of pvc all though he had been TRAINED to use the company tools that are kept in proper order. Does a buck knife cut pvc?? Heck no!!! It just cuts the hell out of your arm and OSHA comes and tries to levy a 7 thousand dollar fine because this guy chose to be an IDIOT!!! In all the company paid over 30 thousand dollars to sew this moron up and it makes me look like a dummy since it’s my job to make sure they are trained. I can talk all day and they will still do what they want… what is next? Making safety directors go out and hold tools for these guys so they don’t get injured? Do I have to sit and watch them…babysit them as they do their jobs????

  • Mark

    Thats the problem with our economy today. Small Business competes with Overseas Business that has no Red Tape Bull Crap hurdles to overcome. (do I sound bitter) I am all for safety and safe workplaces. However we are allowing Washington to regulate us out of Manufacturing in the US altogether.

  • L Vile

    Budget – NO, look at trimming the waste and fat first, then tell me why
    Regulations – No
    State – End the program
    Philosphy – only after repetitive notice of problem – obviously being ignored, should OSHA inspectors be able to shut down
    Standards – yes.
    Statistics – no.

    Let’s look at the big picture, instead of the big companies – smaller companies with more requirements and regulations that can not afford to put into place will go out of business.
    Anyone saying providing safety and health is only because of requirement does not have a large retention or deductible – safety prevention is less expensive than claims.

  • http://www.firefighternation.com Jeff dover

    We can not keep killing our employers with the OSHA, EPA, DHEC, Fire Codes, Building Codes, IRS, and all the other Federal, State, and local agencies that are crippling our economy right now. We must do away with NAFTA and any other world free trade we have going right now. After we do that, then we can concentrate on the safety of our employees!

    The companies that operate in the USA right now can not compete with foreign competitors because of our strict codes and laws. If you don’t believe me, ask someone from SC about our textile industry! Every textile factory has either moved to Mexico or went out of business all together. Surely, you can tell me the same story about someone you know that has had their job out sourced in the name of FREE TRADE!

    This is rediculous! Tell your local representative that it is time for change! Keep our local economy local by charging tarriffs (taxes) on all incoming goods so we do not throw all the tax paying burden on our home business’ and companies.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.omniduct.com GJ Austin

    Regulations are like a Boa Constrictor, they tighten until there is no life left in it’s victum. It is always a mistake to end State and Local programs in favor of a distant and detached Federal entity.
    The Federal level must set standards with NIOSH and leave local agencies perform their role in enforcement. Lastly, an agency that has an agenda that is anything other than the optimum safety for the employee with the responsibility equally shared by employer and employee will always be regarded as adverserial which will not acheive the goal.

  • Fred Camacho

    1. OSHA’s budget: Congress should make a financial commitment to the agency, whose budget hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation, to give OSHA the money it needs.
    I tend agree with this statement, OSHA continues to be belittled without a reflective budget the task at hand is almost insurmountable.
    Regulation: Congress needs to peel back hurdles to enacting new workplace safety and health regulations.
    Not only Congress, but its pet contributors (Business & Labor), the issue is not new regulations but enforcement of current from both management & labor.
    State OSHA’s: Congress should either find a way to provide oversight and additional money for state OSHA’s or end the state programs.
    State programs – to eliminate state programs would increase OSHA budget, the up side is enforcement.
    Philosophy: Inspectors should have the power to shut down a dangerous work site, and the agency’s penalties should be dramatically increased — including making criminal those willful violations of safety laws that result in injury.
    Qualified YES, Inspectors on-site must have the ability to protect workers, if it means shutting down an operation so be it. On the penalty side, this is an Area Directors purview, but needs to done to real teeth into the law.
    Standards: Congress should turn standard-setting for toxins and hazards over to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
    Why just NIOSH, there seems to be issues over NIOSH and ACGIH, if the goal is a safer work environment, I say use ACGIH. NIOSH already works with DOL, and is collaborative partner in standards setting.
    Statistics: Congress should mandate a full accounting of workplace injuries. Some estimates say the actual number of workplace injuries could be three times higher than what the government is currently reporting.
    Define workplace injuries, if organizations were report all injuries the record keeping task would be enormous and costly. Are there more injuries than those on the 300 – yes!! Again define and we will report.

  • Kicker

    The writer obviously has little real knowledge of safety, OSHA, or the world of business.

    Few, if any, reputable businesses are unconcerned about employee injuries. And those companies willing to watch their personnel injured are not overly concerned about what regulations exist, so passing more won’t have much impact. OSHA already has the ability to criminally prosecute those whose willful actions result in death or injury, so adding more will only make the business environment more difficult for reputable companies.

  • milo

    You said “the safer we are the more productive we are.”

    If that were true, then employers would be agressively implementing safety to improve productivity in their operations. And we would not need an orwellian bureaucracy to level draconian fines to get compliance…

    But its not.

    Thats why workers and immediate supervisors seem to be always looking for short cuts.
    Sorry. Your comment does not compute.
    milo

  • Diane

    Here here to the Safety Manager above! Employers can only do so much with all the down-sizing managers & supervisors are taxed to the limit. Goverment does not need to push more regulations on them, they need to provide them with solutions for keeping the employees safe.

  • John Griffin

    Just what the ailing constuction industry needs, more regulations.
    Go ahead, stick a fork in em, because I think they are done!

  • Brian Browning

    People, its not about the regulations, enforcement of the regulations, or OSHA’s budget. Where companies are paying attention these days is worker’s compensation costs. That money piles up pretty fast. There’s a lot more potential for outrageous medical bills than there is for a potential fine.

    Also, expecting OSHA to eliminate injuries is like expecting welfare to eradicate poverty. There are already enough laws on the books to do what needs to be done.

  • Stephenie Risher

    I agree with the proposals which are all sound and reasonable steps for the current environment. I somewhat agree with adequately funding the state OSHA programs; but I also am prone to believe that if a state sees fit to enhance the Federal OSHA plans/programs at the state level, the state should be prepared to adequately fund it. Federal OSHA makes use of proven industry standards and attempts to capitalize on existing resources up to an including public comment to ensure that each safety standard has effectively addressed issues at hand for the point in time that the standard is being developed. Personally and after 29 years of involvement in the safety and compliance arena for industry, it is my observation that a lack of standards is not what is getting people hurt. It is the lack of application of those standards and following already existing rules that is resulting in work-related incidents. If I had to invest more of my tax dollars into funding for OSHA, it would be to enhance funding at the federal level so the federal agency could be more pro-active vs seemingly re-active regarding strategy for mitigating potential tragedy in the work environment.

  • Guido

    Industry doesn’t need MORE regulations. What is DOES need is better management and supervisory personnel to stop yelling “…Get the damn product out the door…!”

  • Site Safety Manager DH

    I agree with the Safety Manager. I have been in construction safety for 10 years now. There are way too many rules, some that are impossible to comply with in many instances. We fine subs for worker non compliance, however good companies get penalized for workers who chose to take shortcuts and ignore the rules. Until the individual worker can be fined things wont change. The unions suck and their so called “highly trained” best workforce blows. Dont get me wrong, there are a lot of good workers, but overall they are doing it to themselves and killing themselves.

    Everyone who works on our projects has to be OSHA 30 or 10 hour trained. Well, we see their training cards and then wonder why they dont wear safety glasses. Its simple. They do it to themselves and they should be held PERSONALLY responsible.

  • Larry Jobman

    Those 6 proposals sound like an old bell ringing again. I seriously doubt that OSHA will get any new attention with other economic issues that will be addressed first. There are so many OSHA regulations now that very few people know all of them. Give inspectors more power and there won’t be a hard hat big enough to fit them. More Regulation? More enforcement? What a laugh. Safety is as Safety does. Eventually there won’t be any industry in the United States with the Free Trade Agreement, so why do we need to worry about reforming OSHA? Answer that.

  • SarahJo

    I have a great solution… Let’s just remove human beings from the workplace and replace them with robots.

    Every job has risks…some more than others. I’ve been in the manufacturing sector for over 15 years, and it never ceases to amaze me at the absolutely ASSININE things people do. Management cannot control every action of their employees, and most of the workplace deaths that occur aren’t because someone wasn’t trained or the equipment was faulty. It’s because humans are still humans and they still choose to do stupid, unsafe things.

    Any trial lawyer will tell you that an employer can do everything exactly as they’re supposed to, yet still be held liable for some little thing that would have prevented a human from making a stupid decision. We can’t idiot-proof life, folks.

    The next four years will be a job-loss nightmare…and we’ll wonder where all of the jobs went. Punish the producers who create jobs and wealth, and bailout and encourage those who make bad decisions. What a brilliant concept. (Please note the sarcasm.)

    Those of you who voted for Obama will see where all of this altruism and demonization of producers gets you. Atlas will shrug.

  • Jim

    What we really need is a level playing field. The low bidder could be taking short cuts, like cutting back on his safety budget. I believe that most big corporations don’t want the bad press that comes with fatilites. They are not the problem. The smaller businesses are the ones that need OSHA’s help. Lets not price US business out or existance. For the fly by night contractor that doesn’t care about his worker’s safety, I say “Fine him out of business” and “Put him in jail”. Don’t even get me started on all that crap coming in from China. Who’s looking out for the Chinese worker? Not Walmart shoppers!

  • mark

    1) Osha’s budget should not be increased untill they can prove that they are spending the existing budget in a cost effective manner.I cannot think of many companies that have kept up with the rate of inflation.Let them keep the fine money instead of it going into the general fund.That would creat a very sizable fund to work from.

    2)Obviously if there are hurdles in place they were left there to keep some control over the agency so these should remain in place.no government agency should be unrestricted.

    3)Eliminate redundancy, cut the state programs, one level of OSHA should be enough.

    4) Inspectors should have the ability to have a dangerous work site shut down, but they need to follow specific proceedures, giving any one person (inspectors) too much instant power is not a good thing, I would hate to get the brunt of some inspectors bad day!!

    5)We should strive to have one set of guidleines for toxins that everyone follows, and those guidlines should be looked at by all members of the community before inactment.

    6) Companies are already mandated to keep track of all workplace injuries, the existing regulations just need to be enforced.

  • Radi Ann Porter

    I would support these recommendation providing that they are a practical approach to the issues we have in regards to workplace safety. In response to R. Macon the job of the union is not to train the employee but to insure that the employer has adequate training, policy and proceedure in place to insure a safe work place for all workers.

  • jim

    I think we should DUMP OSHA all together!
    I don’t believe they have an interest in employee
    health, JUST Money!

  • Steve

    The consistency within this string of comments is refreshing to hear. Historically the Safety Community has fostered more regulation and more requirements to help sucure and justify the profession. That’s an opinion anyway.
    Some very good points expressed much more distinctly and geinuinly than one can find from major media outlet for sure.
    Give OSHA credit for working in the VPP and promoting a more nuturing relationship with business than in the past. Give business and workforces credit for their improvements, monitored so closely by the BLS.
    Deny elements of Congress and the heads of OSHA a free pass to manipulate U.S. industry for their own political agendas.
    Hoping all will continue to state their positions in other forums or discussions.
    It’s easy to find what is wrong with anything, workplace environments not excluded. The challenge is to find what is working and build on it. OSHA and Business presently have the beginnings of a productive relationship…it would be too bad if a Liberal OSHA reverts back to old ways.
    The comments about businesses having motive to genuinely police themselves and keep their workforce safe is more evident today than ever before. Workers Comp costs, Health Insurance, Lost time for skilled workers, Bad press vs. Good press….and on and on.
    Better to work with the remaining businesses than to keep driving them out of competition and/or out of the country. The Walmart metaphore is “dead-on.”

  • Safety Dave

    For the nay sayers of safety requirements, try explaining to a workers family in the emergency room why their loved one has been injured because the owner or organization was too cheap to do the job correctly or hired illegals because they would not second guess an order from a superior.

    I have managed safety in industry for 20 years and have cringed at the site of new hires or college summer help doing things for the company owner that is totally against OSHA standards simply because the owner was an idiot and would ask the kids to do anything.

    I say in a great deal of cases the owners should be treated like criminals, at least in a few plants that I have worked in!

    I have been through two week long OSHA audits in better organizations and felt that they (OSHA) were very fair on relative compliance issues when an organization was doing things to standard. Those that hate regulations and government interference in their business are not being realistic and take their frustration out on the employees. It is not the employees that should pay the price.

  • http://www.kone.com Leo Richardson

    OSHA’s budget should definitely be increased, remaining behind the rate of inflation is simply unacceptable.

    Inspectors should have the power to shut down a dangerous work site and nothing more than that. But, shutting down a job will have a dramatic and quick effect on a job’s safety.

    I agree with the fact that Congress should turn standard-setting for toxins and hazards over to NIOSH.

  • Mike

    I have worked as a safety professional for over 5 years now 3 of which have been as an onsite Safety Coordinator for a General Contractor and the biggest issue that I have seen is workers attitudes. So often I hear workers say that they don’t care about the OSHA regs because it isn’t their money if the company gets cited for a violation. Workers need to be held accountable for their actions not just the company or the managers. The company I work for goes above and beyond to train and educate our own employees as well as those of our subcontractors but accidents still happen. So I don’t think that new regs are the answer nor do I think that criminal charges against managers is the answer either. OSHA needs to start going the route of MSHA where they can fine an individual for an action. If an individual knew he might have to pay a fine then they might think twice before they do something that they know isn’t right.

  • M.L.S.

    OSHA’s budget: Congress should make a financial commitment to the agency, whose budget hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation, to give OSHA the money it needs. YES, FULL FUNDING – WITH OVERSIGHT ON SPENDING – IS VERY NECESSARY.
    Regulation: Congress needs to peel back hurdles to enacting new workplace safety and health regulations. YES. RULE MAKING IS EXTREMELY BURDENSOME. IT SHOULD NOT TAKE 9 YEARS TO ACHIEVE FINAL RULE.
    State OSHAs: Congress should either find a way to provide oversight and additional money for state OSHAs or end the state programs. YES (REFER TO ‘OSHA’S BUDGET’)
    Philosophy: Inspectors should have the power to shut down a dangerous work site, and the agency’s penalties should be dramatically increased — including making criminal those willful violations of safety laws that result in injury. YES, WITH WELL-ESTABLISHED CRITERIA. SOME EMPLOYERS GET IT, AND SOME DON’T. AS TO ‘CRIMINAL WILFUL,’ IT IS ALREADY ACHIEVABLE UNDER CURRENT RULES.
    Standards: Congress should turn standard-setting for toxins and hazards over to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). YES. LET THE SUBJECT-MATTER EXPERTS DO THEIR THING.
    Statistics: Congress should mandate a full accounting of workplace injuries. Some estimates say the actual number of workplace injuries could be three times higher than what the government is currently reporting. YES. THIS ISSUE REQUIRES MUCH STRONGER POLICING AGAINST THOSE WHO COMMIT FRAUDULENT RESPONSE AND RECORDKEEPING TO WORKPLACE INCIDENTS.

  • http://www.tyrantoftexas.com Tara Hart

    Go to TyrantofTexas.com and hear a song based upon both OSHA’s questionable conduct as well as actual documented behavior that, at least with the evidence to date, appears criminal. Two items include staging evidence in a Texas fatality investigation and threatening a witness with criminal prosecution if he testifies truthfully at hearing. The most shocking part is the witness was OSHA’s own inspector that was the lead in the investigation. He wanted to tell the truth about the Agency’s practices, about being forced to create significant cases and big fines where none were warranted because that is what they are rewarded on. As a matter of fact, OSHA has NO incentive to have safer worksites. If deaths stop, so does OSHA’s kudos. This information comes straight from a recently retired former DOL official that was very senior in the Agency.

    I am the CEO of an internationally recognized safety firm. I would be happy to talk to the Sun about their series. I may be able to give them a better rabbit to chase when it comes to the problem. The Sun is right about the problem, just wrong about the cause and the solutions.

    Listen to the song, pass it on. The copyright is held by a non-profit foundation and the foundation is allowing free downloads and distribution.

  • http://atlanticprimesupply.com Michael Nipper

    On 1st glance, the proposed changes make sense. However, it is true that no matter how well, how often, and how much you train and “refresher” train your people, someone is going to do something stupid or careless. And if nothing happens, or no one seems them, they’ll do it again. And eventually, someon will get hurt. And even though the employer or business did everything required, they are held liable for the accident and/or injury.

    I spent 22 years in the military working with munitions. Believe me, everything you do with explosives is on a checklist that you cannot deviate from. Untold millions of dollars in training and safety equipment, and people still get hurt and/or killed doing something they shouldn’t have to “save time” or ” make the job easier”.

    Increasing the number of requlations, or the level of fines will not change these facts. All it will do is increase the cost on the employers, and they in turn will reduce costs by reducing employees and/or benefits for the remaining employees. Not to mention increasing the cost of operating OSHA, which comes directly from yours and my tax dollars. So to cover the increased OSHA budget, the government will have to either increase taxes, or divert the money from some other agency. If you make OSHA self-funding, thru increased fines, then they will just issue more fines to cver their budget. It will be a never-ending spiral of increasing fines to cover an increasing budget. Not a good idea.

    The only way to acheive zero accidents and zero injuries is to sedate the entire human race and put a computer in charge. With several backups, and backups to the backups.

  • Safety Man

    Wow, what a range of views. I did not read all the comments as I became very frustrated and realized the world we live in is very foggy to some people. I have been involved in safety for about 15 years and have seen the change that education brings from within our company.

    I do not believe that we need more regulations. We need more education with OSHA working with companies to assist in establishing and setting up safety programs. In my state we have a state run program under the EPA which established a training program with annual follow up to educate business on certain environmental items they were concerned with. Established relationships with these trianee’s so that they feel comfortable contacting them on compliance issues and taking care of these issues. No gotcha policy. Let’s face it, don’t we all need a little help every now and then on what the intent or interpretation of some of the regulations are.

    Lets look at some of the programs out there that we need to comply with. OSHA, free access to information but no reel relationship with businesses. NIOSH and NFPA have an endless number of regulations or recommendations of standards that if you want you must buy and/or be a member to know what it is that you need to be compliant with. We need one central body for information that is willing to work with (establish relationships) businesses to ensure the safety of all people in the workplace.

    State run or federal seems a little off. Either have all state run or all federal run programs. Financially, they all need money and we all pay one way or another.

    Criminal charges, as stated for willful violations. The problem with this comes with, like all things, interpretations. Like someone mentioned before, what about employee accountability? You can educate employees and establish a discipline program but what happens when it is someones first time deciding to do something against what has been established, either written or verbal and something negative comes of it. How many times have you warned or asked employees to correct an unsafe act? If employers are subject to fines then employees should be as well provided they are breaking an established policy or program. Hey let’s spread the pain!

    Yes, Safety is a culture that needs to grow. Let’s not set more burdens on businesses in the struggling United States economy. Let’s educate and provide tools to succeed.

  • Nancy Hill

    Absolutely OSHA needs better funding to oversee the enormous amount of businesses in this country today. However, as a safety coordinator, I believe if the truth came out about the number of injuries sustain each year, that were actual injuries, and not someone trying to dupe the system, that 4 million injuries per year would probably be cut to more than half that amount. Maybe some of the monies that OSHA needs should be spent on investigating questionable injuries. That is not to say that injuries don’t occur, and that there are companies that are deficient with their safety practices.
    It just amazes me when I hear statistics about how few injuries or deaths happened during the construction of the Empire State Building, and Hoover Dam, or the Golden Gate Bridge. OSHA did not even exist back then. When talking with my father about ergonomics training that I did earlier in the year, that he didn’t even know what “ergonomic training” was and he is retired (after 36 years of service) from Amoco Production Co.
    I feel that in many cases the fines OHSA imposes hurts the employees of that business because it takes away possible funding needed to make proper safety improvements. As with most all of the government programs, I believe that it is time to refresh and reorganize.

  • Nestor Arboleda

    I am an Bilingual authorized OSHA outreach trainer and I can tell you where is the problem. I believe the educated worker is responsible to do his task, and shall be doing so accordingly as human and not a robot. Some employees “never paying attention” to the training or to the rules and regulations to work safely…always a supervisor needs to do JOB SAFETY ANALYSIS to encounter a problem before accident happens. All accidents in any place of work or no matter the task, could be dangerous for the human body. Training is fundamental and also inspections in every task; must be regular improvement to do it safely. In many trainings around the states that I did and doing it, all employees minimize risks to get hurt. Management needs cooperation as well, and help his crews to do work safely. Some companies has internal rules and motivation to all employees to work safely. Sometimes reprimand it to learn to do the task safely. I believe in this.
    As I was saying the path toward zero injuries is influenced by key factors in SAFETY CULTURE that include employee participation, individual competency, management involvement and collaborative buy-in. Through a combination of conditions-based and behavior-based process monitoring, I help business improve SAFETY PERFORMANCE, increase profitability and most importantly, enable them to send their workers home SAFELY EVERY DAY. TRAINING is needed and continuosly improve business process.

  • http://SafetyNewsAlert George Knott

    Until workers understand that it is just as much their responsilbilty for safety as the company they work for there will always be incidents. It is the companies responsibility to provide a safe workplace and the employees responsibility to use the process to keep themselves and co-workers safe.

  • Val

    This sounds like Big Brother to me. OSHA certainly already has much of the power that the Sun is requesting and I think that is plenty. You can regulate till Kingdom come and you will never eliminate every injury, because many are caused by employees themselves doing stupid things. I am not saying there aren’t bad employers out there, but it is not realistic to think that an employer can be everywhere at once overseeing all things. It is not even realistic to think that an employer would know every nuance of the OSHA regs. Between definitions and interpretations, the average employer is going to miss something. The more regulation we put in place, the harder it is for business to survive. We have rules and if employers are found to be willfully violating them, there are already big fines and in egregious cases, criminal prosecution that could take place. Why spend more money putting more regulation in? That just means more administration and more tax dollars in an already poor economy. Crack down on the jerks, if you must, but leave the business owners that are trying to be safe alone. Don’t make it harder than it is.

  • Al S.

    One aspect that needs to be revised is if the employees are not following the rules established by the Company, they need to be held accountable also not just the management. In many cases, especially in construction the Company has programs and provides the proper materials for the worker’s and choose not to use or follow the procedure. Union employees are some of the biggest violators. The same penalty needs to be levied on the emplyees if it is found they choose not to follow the rules because in construction you can’t watch them all the time.

  • David Haller

    We are expecting perfection from imperfect individuals. It’s all good and well to establish regulations and expect folks to follow them, but at the end of the day, mistakes will be made, injuries will be suffered and lives will be lost for the simple reason that even the best intentioned individuals will make mistakes. The government has tried for over 200 years to mandate perfection in more than one area. It has yet to be achieved despite thousands upon thousands of pages of regulations.

  • Tony K.

    Some poor soul dies on the job, or is seriously injured, and OSHA levies a hefty fine on the company. But the poor schmuck or his family are still at a loss, unless they have the where-with-all to sue the employer. If OSHA had a real budget, those fines [or at least a percentage of them] could go to the victim or his/her family. That would be a little justice.

  • Bob Vernon

    I am not impressed with the suggested actions.
    The data presented does not provide a long term view of safety in the USA. She hasn’t differentiated between statistics prior to OSHA nor improvements in safety since OSHA was enacted. Readers are unable to determine what the “marginal effect” of additional regulations would be.
    The author also seems to favor the “stick” rather than the “carrot” with regard to compliance. No mention of “VPP” or other participatory “partnership” initiatives or their effectiveness.
    Reads like a “hit” job as pointed out in other comments.
    However, the comments made by many readers indicate challenges with training that seem to be universal among safety professionals. The pressures of making room in operating budgets for “non-revenue” generating costs in an economy where competition is tough, makes dollars for training materials and teachers as well as “lost productive hours” on the part of employees problematic for management. Often times Management does not appreciate the “value” the cost of safety training until there is a serious accident because serious accidents for individual companies occur occasionally, but the management of overhead budgets are a daily factor.
    Suggestion, why not tie standard safety metrics to tax breaks for companies. In effect this would allow employers to allocate safety training costs to an opportunity for reduced taxes. Companies claim the tax break would have to be able to demonstrate excellence or dramatic improvement in saety performance. That woudl be a “win-win” for employers as well as employees and OSHA.

  • http://www.uniqueplastering.com James Farrell

    As a “Safety Manager” the most effective tool I have found is the OSHA consultation program. With the current problems facing this country that will likely be the first place that cuts will be made if the budget problems are not addressed.
    I strongly agree that the statistics published are not accurate. With “First-aid only injuries being allowed to be paid by employers and not reportable this could effect those numbers by at least 30%.
    By taking an active and aggressive stand and partnering with OSHA to prevent lost time accidents I have been able to take my companies emod from a 1.37 to a .83 in less than five years.
    And on another note I have found that the employers who dislike OSHA the most and have so many negative comments concerning them are generally the ones who need them the most! Or at least thier employees do!

  • William Saftman

    OSHA underfunded huh, now you know how we industrial safety folks feel right ?
    Do more with less, but don’t get anyone hurt seems to be the norm in what industry we have left in this country. It is high time individuals are held accountable for their personal safety and we become less dependent on the big “O” for policing safety programs in America. We have the rules it’s time we all start abiding by them.

  • Steve

    Here we go again….knee-jerk reaction. I am all for the protection of employees and providing the best safety equipment and training. But we have to stop creating programs that exceed what we ACTUALLY do in each individual business. It causes us to manage paper trail nightmares, creates legal liability for contractors with the multitudes of interpretations, and causes confusion among our employees under the load of regulations that can not always be strictly adhered to in real world situations. I have managed excellent safety programs with high employee awareness and strong safety culture but everytime the OSHA inspector steps on a project site, we get treated as if we do nothing to support and promote safety. Fact – construction is inherently dangerous. This is not to say that it is OK for people to be injured or die. It is just to say that there is an amount of risk that no government agency can cause to disappear. I did not go to school to learn safety. I started out in construction 30 years ago and have worked in general, mechanical, marine and commercial diving, and general contracting. THEN I went back to school. I would not trade my experience for my two college degrees. Experience reveals the real world. You cannot be realistic about construcion safety unless you have experienced the environment. With experience, you will learn that you cannot promote safety by strict adherence to a book supported by punishment. The book is an excellent guideline and training resource. But get into the real world. A contractor either has a safety culture or not. Stop penalizing the ones that are supporting safety by using the same shotgun approach that should be aimed at the reckless ones. Teach, train, provide the best safety equipment, create a culture, build a team. You will look at your accomplishments and wonder why you ever thought that enforcement would work.

  • Tom Roland

    OSHA seems to make a mint in fines but without knowing their exact budget it is hard to really know. I hear them complain that there is little to go around. One of their programs on the Insurance side “OSH-CON” is a great avenue to work with the government and have a safe workplace without having the dog biting at the door. I know that my company has worked with this entity and found them very helpful and useful. I would like to see more publication on this program and funding pushed this direction.

  • Jake H.

    OSHA does not need a budget increase. They should be held responsible for their sometimes needless and careless spending. We all want our employees to go home safe everyday, but until we hold the emploee/s accountable for unsafe actions, we will get nowhere. Like children, when they are not watched, they do foolish things. 90% of all workplace injuries occur when something out of the ordinary occurs. This means that employees are not following their training or the safety rules. And the injured worker/s is so well protected by OSHA that you can’t punish them, but instead you have to offer them a light duty task and drive your costs up even higher. At the rate we are heading, employers will have to pay higher worker comp rates ( in WA L & I is our ins.) and deal with more injury claims due to our “system.” Hold both parties responsible and you will see results.

  • http://www.uniqueplastering.com James Farrell

    I agree with the comments following my first, to a point that is where we as employers have to take responsibility. If employees are not following the rules write them up, document it if they repeat suspend them. If they repeat again FIRE THEM it will open the eyes of your other employees and show OSHA you afre enforcing the rules.
    There will be no budget increases with the “Democrat’s” in charge only cuts which means those cuts will be in consultation and the resources which are there to help us to educate our employees.
    Which means once OSHA shows up and finds a violation there will be fines… and than the companies policies will be reviewed and if the right ones are not in place than there will be more fines.
    My advice is to contact consultation while they still exist and do a review and make sure the correct policies are in place and than it will be up to us to police ourselves.
    And as far as 90% of accidents occuring when something out of the ordinary occurs I STRONGLY DISAGREE, not following rules, regulations, policies and flat out not paying attention is not out of the ordinary it is plain ignorance! And that is where 90% of accidents in the construction industry come from!

  • http://www.tyrantoftexas.com Tara Hart

    The Sun has the problem right, but Alexandra’s presumed cause and solutions are all wrong.

    Does that reporter do better work when under constant threat of severe, even criminal, penalty?

    What does motivate people to have constantly improving processes?

    Rewards. And that’s the problem. OSHA is rewarded for significant cases and large fines. This is a fact. Therefore, OSHA cannot be “rewarded” if there are no deaths, no serious injuries, or no large jobsites getting “nailed”. According to a senior, retired, DOL official, Regional Area Directors have no incentive for safer jobsites but, in the exact words of this official, “Quite the opposite.” OSHA is NOT held accountable for the number of deaths in their region. If there are 1000 deaths in their region, no problem, AS LONG AS they bring in SIGNIFICANT CASES AND BIG FINES.

    This has led to an abuse of power where fraudulent and frivolous citations are issued, employers are abused via the administrative legal process (and it is not uncommon that the ALJs ==Administrative Law Judges, Solicitor, and OSHA work together to make sure the employers are abused since the ALJs, Solicitor, and OSHA are all on the DOL’s payroll).

    In the meantime, the song, “There’s a Tyrant Down in Texas” is out there on the web (see the song’s website, mentioned earlier http://www.TyrantofTexas.com“) and it specifically speaks to one case of what certainly appears to be at least, questionable conduct and, at worse, criminal acts by OSHA against at least one innocent employer. As this case unfolds, I would not be surprised to see many innocent employers arise from this case. The witness intimidation is documented and the signed declaration of the lead CSHO states that his superior deliberately used staged photographs to issue citations.

    This is not an Agency that needs MORE power. This is an Agency that needs more ACCOUNTABILITY.

    Reward and acknowledge OSHA for fewer fatalities, not more fines. Hold OSHA accountable for its own failure to visit sites where workers are dying in favor of targeting the large, lucrative sites (and targeting their own “partners”). Now, this would lead to improvements.

    But allowing an Agency already out of control to go on a McCarthy’ism or Salem-type witch hunt paralyzing industry, shutting down jobs, and trying to crush employers (and thus crush the economic infrastructure of the employees OSHA is supposedly serving) is NOT a very good idea.

    Alexandra means well. She just needs to do a bit more research with people who have experience, evidence, and effective ideas on solutions before she finishes her series. Something this important should not gain momentum from a generalist’s editorial series and the resulting rumor mill. It should also not be a biased, unbalanced piece that promotes only the agenda of those who stand to profit politically, professionally, or economically from such poorly thought out “solutions”.

    Let’s shut down The Sun for journalistic wrecklessness and criminally prosecute the journalist for taking so much license with her op-ed piece. Will that make her a better writer or The Sun a more accountable newspaper? I think not. But it would make newspapers and journalists afraid to be in business.

    The worker death rate is a multi-pronged problem that needs a multi-pronged solution. OSHA is in SERIOUS NEED of reform at both the operational and citation contest level. Insurance AND OSHA need to keep their leading indicators (EMR & TRIR) out of the industry’s bidding processes since both are typically based upon meaningless numbers that have nothing to do with reality (as clearly stated in the language of every OSHA settlement agreement). Further, Owners need an accountability incentive so that they determine short list on safety culture first (not TRIR or EMR–these numbers do not represent culture) and price second. IF the government incentivized Owners with safety they way they did with drug programs, workplaces would be safer.

    If Alexandra’s “call for 6 possible solutions” were to actually manifest, it would be the worst thing that could ever happen to industry and it would not serve the integrity of OSHA either…it would fuel OSHA’s escalating abuse of power. OSHA is not unlike the FDIC in that Judge Hughes’ ruling in the Hurwitz case called the FDIC “A corrupt agency operating under corrupt influences…” and OSHA appears to be running neck in neck with the FDIC for the same distinction.

    However, if Alexandra’s correct identification of the real problem—no meaningful decline in worker deaths—morphs into an objective and unbiased analysis of causes and possible solutions, her series could still have a wonderful outcome.

    Industry leaders in partnership with my firm are currently planning a roundtable in Houston that is going to be a public forum to discuss the escalating power abuse by some OSHA officials, the unfair and unethical abuse of the legal process by OSHA and its representatives (i.e. the solicitor and some ALJs), and the “changeling” that the construction industry “partnership” has morphed into. Current OSHA officials will be invited but very prominent, high ranking DOL officials who are only recently retired have agreed to participate in the roundtable as well–and their position is not supportive of many of OSHA’s current practices.

    Are there any other cities out there who would like to join us? Perhaps we could even find a way to televise it?

    I’d be happy to hear from anyone who wants more information from us on the questionable conduct of Region 6 OSHA officials, on the roundtable, or on our ideas about possible solutions that could work and should be seriously considered in lieu of those being bantered about right now.

    We have also formed a national coalition of safety consultants that is launching from Houston. Membership is free to all interested parties and is open to any one supporting our purpose. Our purpose is to share our experiences in contesting OSHA citations so that we may all learn from each other’s experiences while we shed light on OSHA’s practices in this arena. OSHA can only continue to abuse power if they continue to operate in secret, which, by and large, they do. The average employer is in a vacuum, one on one with OSHA and has no recourse to bring OSHA’s treatment of them to the public eye. Also, it is economically infeasible for the typical construction industry contractor to get justice inside the system since the DOL is stacked against them. The current citation process is like having a rape victim (American employer) file her complaint for the rape with the rapist (OSHA), and then have her complaint met with a lawsuit filed against her by the rapist’s attorney (the Solicitor). She then must spend lots of money to defend this lawsuit that attacks her for reporting the rape and she must hope for a fair hearing from a Judge that is on the rapist’s payroll. You do the math.

    Further, the coalition’s forum for sharing information will allow us all to better serve our clients in representation of OSHA cases and to support industry in its pursuit, if any, of changes to OSHA citation contest process.

    Please feel free to contact me.

    Tara Hart, CEO
    TCA/The Compliance Alliance
    Houston, Texas
    713.263.7661

  • Jerry

    There are enough laws on the books. Some people will not wear the proper equipment or take the time to use the proper tool unless they see a supervisor or the safety person coming.

    We need thing to help us stimulate people to do what is right.

    More rules and paper work is not what is needed with all the down sizing of companies
    Small companies have to struggle with doing all the paper work and training or getting the customer taken care of that generates our business.

  • http://oadc.net Don Mays

    It always sounds great to state we have enough laws but the fact of the matter is, many OSHA standards have not kept up with changes in the workplace. For example in construction, Mast Climbing Work Platform regulations are years behind the equipment. Also I agree with the willful violation changes as many employers do not feel the monetary or legal need to comply with standards as it cheaper in their minds to just pay the fine. Many of the employers I have dealt with do not train employee’s according to OSHA requirements but have them sign training attendance sheets after talking about safety for a few minutes after coffee break. The employee is then not truly trained. I agree with many of the proposed changes at least in part. Some may need tweaked, but changes are needed in many area’s of the standards to make them more effective. Addressing OSHA’s obvious lack of funding and authority to shut down an unsafe jobsite is a good place to start.

  • milo

    To safety Dave you said “For the nay sayers of safety requirements, try explaining to a workers family in the emergency room why their loved one has been injured because the owner or organization was too cheap to do the job correctly or hired illegals because they would not second guess an order from a superior.”

    Actually Dave, as a plant manager I ‘ve only had go talk to families twice. Both times the “loved One” got to explain to his family how they had “taken a shortcut, not followed the procedure and thought they could get away with it.” I looked their loved ones in the eyes with dignity andwe both knew how their loved one’s decision was made…

    I run a program where I say what I mean and mean what I say.
    I’m sorry that in your shop or the shops you speak of they are “too cheap to do the job correctly and hiring illegals,” because that crap don’t fly in mine.

    milo

  • Guido

    All this is so very interesting. I was a Safety Manager at a Kansas meat packng plant, when a 62-year-old maintenance mechanic fell off a high bench, and consequently died the next day from the head trauma. He was to retire in a few months. His supervisor didn’t seem to think fall protection was required because it was only six feet to the floor. Oh yes, the company was fined a whopping $2500, Needless to say the fine was inconsequential compared to the loss and tragedy to his family. My intent was to fire the supervisor for blatant disregard for safety regulations. All training and confirmation of knowledge was in place and recorded.

    To make a long story shorter, the company “eliminated” my job and I was out on the street. And what did they do? They brought back the previous Safety Manager who took another position with another company, and who was in the pocket of upper plant management, and corporate owners in the company that I replaced him. Seems it was the ‘good ol’ boy approach.’ Don’t make waves.

    The only thing I will say at this time is that OSHA needs more TEETH in its organization. It needs to be in a position to bring, or minimally recommend criminal charges against those companies, and company employee management and supervisory personnel who blatantly disregard safety regulations.

    It’s truly amazing, because this same company had six fatalities on two different occasions in prior years. Where does it end?

    Please forgive my language here, but the Federal Government, Congress, and OSHA need to shit or get off the pot. Either they are going to be a regulatory agency or they are not, and if they are, they need to start aggressively enforcing regulations, and fining the hell out of the companies that think they are above the law.

    The memory of that fatality still lingers in my mind – 12-years after the fact.

  • Chuck Woodings

    As a Safety man myself, My one suggestion to actually improve safety would be to improve training in all trades and then once an individual has been trained if he violates a safety rule, he should be the one to get fined, not the employer. We can spend all day training, and yet it only takes one second to violate a safety rule and someone is killed, either the individual who makes the error and an innocent bystander. I’ve suggested this to an OHSHA man and he almost got angry at even the thought of it. The fines wouldn’t need to be very large unless the individual was a consistent violator and then the fines should be progressive. It still comes down to how much risk is an individual willing to take and some people like living on the edge and don’t care.

    I do recognize the need for OSHA to go after companies that are not providing adequate training, and there are a lot of these I think, reviewing the accidents that occur as I have done. Too many people are doing dumb things and they need to receive more training but I still maintain that once they are trained they should be the ones paying the fines.

    I’m sure this will bring a lot of adverse comments, but why do we take shortcuts, why do we violate safety rules when they are for our protection. We certainly wouldn’t jump out of an airplane without a parachute on, and yet we see people daily that have been properly taught and yet choose to take the shortcut just because it has worked for them before.

    The money paid in fines or that would be paid in fines could be far better spent training workers to do their jobs safely. In order for a person of group of people to go into business, perhaps they should have to submit training programs to OSHA or some responsible unit to get a business license. If this were the case, then OSHA’s job would be to follow up and be sure that the businesses were doing this training.

    All this might work in the ideal world, but we know that there is always someone who is willing to overlook things for considerations, as all the current publicity shows.

  • Chuck Woodings

    As a Safety man myself, My one suggestion to actually improve safety would be to improve training in all trades and then once an individual has been trained if he violates a safety rule, he should be the one to get fined, not the employer. We can spend all day training, and yet it only takes one second to violate a safety rule and someone is killed, either the individual who makes the error or an innocent bystander. I’ve suggested this to an OHSHA man and he almost got angry at even the thought of it. The fines wouldn’t need to be very large unless the individual was a consistent violator and then the fines should be progressive. It still comes down to how much risk is an individual willing to take and some people like living on the edge and don’t care.

    I do recognize the need for OSHA to go after companies that are not providing adequate training, and there are a lot of these I think, reviewing the accidents that occur as I have done. Too many people are doing dumb things and they need to receive more training but I still maintain that once they are trained they should be the ones paying the fines.

    I’m sure this will bring a lot of adverse comments, but why do we take shortcuts, why do we violate safety rules when they are for our protection. We certainly wouldn’t jump out of an airplane without a parachute on, and yet we see people daily that have been properly taught and yet choose to take the shortcut just because it has worked for them before.

    The money paid in fines or that would be paid in fines could be far better spent training workers to do their jobs safely. In order for a person of group of people to go into business, perhaps they should have to submit training programs to OSHA or some responsible unit to get a business license. If this were the case, then OSHA’s job would be to follow up and be sure that the businesses were doing this training.

    All this might work in the ideal world, but we know that there is always someone who is willing to overlook things for considerations, as all the current publicity shows.

  • Chuck Woodings

    I’m sorry that I pushed submit twice above but I read the 6 suggestions and then immediately jumped the the bottom and put my thoughts down. I have since read almost all of the comments and it is very gratifying to me to have so many other safety professionals state the same thought that more responsibility needs to be placed on the worker doing his part. I really liked the idea of making safety a self rewarding goal by the government providing tax breaks or similar for companies improving their safety or maintaining good safety records. There are many very valid comments above and it was a pleasure to read them. I have been in safety since 1981, and this has been our most successful year.

  • http://www.uniqueplastering.com James Farrell

    I do wish as do several of you out there also that OSHA citations could be handed out directly to individuals. But the problem there lies in the substantial cost of than recovering that money. It would overwhelm the court systems and result in countless hours of paperwork and man hours.
    We as a company at this point are trying to find a loophole in the laws that would allow us to fine our employees for each violation whether it be hardhat violations, safety glasses or fall protection. We have considered having all moneys donated to charity or to funds set up for families of individuals who have died in industrial accidents but as of yet have not been able to get the labor commission to buy into it!

  • Kevin Temple

    The reporters opinion to strip away established programs and quickly develop new ones is a formula to increase, job related deaths and injuries, not reduce. OSHA has made significant improvements in the safety and health of workers in the United States and no article or reporter can dispute the overall reduction of fatalities and serious injuries since the implementation of the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The biggest challenge is trying to change a culture of workers and employers that think safety is an unattainable goal, reduces production and therefore reduces profit, so one should do nothing rather than continuously develop and improve policies and behaviors that will ultimately do just the opposite. Maybe the reporter should try to save one star fish at a time rather than criticize the entire Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Admistration for the thousands washed up on the beach.

  • Safety Manager

    I love reading all these comments from real safety people who understand how hard it is to do our jobs. It is especially hard for me to be sympathetic to employees for getting hurt. I can spend a couple of hours training them, I know they understand, they sign a verification form, and then then next day I see them doing exactly what I told them not to do. For example, jump off of a ladder rather than climb down. Then when they get hurt they take advantage of the workers comp system and spend 6 months at home on the couch saying their back hurts. I live in Las Vegas and am a Safety Manager at a Hotel Casino. I enforce/comply with both OSHA General Industry and Construction standards. I have a great working relationship with NV OSHA Enforcement and Consultation. There is a former Safety Director in Las Vegas who was fired for not doing his job and an almost out of business safety consulting firm who is giving Alexandra at the Las Vegas Sun her mis-information. It would be really great if all of you knowledgable safety people could occasionally go to http://www.lasvegassun.com and read the bad articles written by Alexendra and leave your comments correcting her.

  • http://SafetyNewsAlert Vince

    This person has it EXACTLY RIGHT!

    “SarahJo: December 8th, 2008 at 4:38 pm ”

    I love you SarahJo! Run for President! Please!

  • Cheri

    We have ruled and regulated our society right into a major recession, we can not compete with other countries in free trade, no one else has all the rules and regs and costs associated with them, that we do, so how do we continue to grow our economy under the current rules and regs?

  • Safety Guy

    I have enjoyed all the comments. I do think that OSHA needs a change of direction to continue to help businesses maintain and expand safety for their employees. I have been involved in the Oregon OSHA SHARP and it is a great program that OSHA has put together. It requires mush less documentation and BS work than OSHA’s VPP and it creates a great working relationship with business and OSHA. They are there to help not just fine and punish. It also shows employees that management and OSHA both care. VPP is also a great program, there are just a bunch of hoops to jump through. I really believe that OSHA needs to expand on these programs, and if they need more resources to do that then i am all for it. If the changes are only there to help them with enforcement then i think it is a step backwards.

    On a side note, the safer the workplace the more productive it really is. If a place is dirty and messy then it requires extra effort just to work around the mess. If an employee gets hurt then someone with less experience and training will have to take over while they are out and it will slow production, possibly hurt product quality because they may make mistakes, and put them at greater risk of injury simply because they are unfamiliar with equipment and processes.

    So to Milo, think about that last comment before you rant.

  • stanthesafetyman

    Ive been involved with occupational safety and health for 15 years and in the construction industry another 15 years. Ive seen thousands of jobsites for GC’s and sub’s. If you ask me the two things you must have to maintain safe jobsites, safe tools, and safe equipment, are the two things that have been missing from the work force for about the last two decades. Those two things are respect and pride. Without these two things, no matter how much money you spend, no matter how much you theaten, no matter how much the cost of material goes down (which is not likely), you will not change whats happening with the work force today. We have lost as many workers in the last 20 years as we have in all the wars in US history put together. What can we do you ask ? The previous safety geeks think they have the answer but the truth is, what has gone wrong is beyond our control and there is no fix. I for one enjoy the job security, but dont get me wrong, I do care about workers safety and believe me Ive given thousands of hours of safety training. All we are left with is to manage the workers we get, and create paper trails to CYA. So if you want to enrich your selves by sucking up more salary then you deserve by selling some crap about how to fix things, then answer this. If you can make a differance then why havent you already ? Keep making safety a political thing and watch men continue to die.

  • http://www.desertfleet-serv.com Patrick Stimpson

    I agree with Stanthesafetyman to a point. There are lots and lots of great companies and even more great safety supervisors out there. They can only do so much, given the attitude of the general workforce these days. I would love to see OSHA hold the employee fully accountable if the safety equipment and training have been done properly.

    There is, however, a certain undesirable element in all industries that I believe the is being addressed by this discussion. I have encountered or read about companies, supervisors, safety supervisors, etc who simply don’t give a **#* about their employees. They don’t want to spend money, or time to keep them safe, and as long as they keep dodging the bullet they will not care. For these few companies, I think the enforcement needs to be so scary as to make them think.

    I hear everyone’s concern about good people getting popped, and I am concerned too. Perhaps the answer is for the rule to define ‘willful, careless negligence for the safety and health of workers’ in a way that does not include supervisors etc, who are doing all they can with a poor work pool.

  • http://www.uniqueplastering.com James Farrell

    I had to comment after reading Stan and Patrick’s input to this blog! Gentleman let’s not forget that we are talking about employee’s, in an industry that has turned to “production”. These are not journeyman or craftsman like we saw in the 50′s and 60′s and 70′s they are the replacement’s who work for lower wages (as compared to the cost of living) who just put in thier time and do only what is required to get the job done.
    They don’t care if the company is fined. They don’t look to the future and see what is happening to the economy they only see as far ahead as next friday’s paycheck.
    Until they are handed that final paycheck or a pink slip the rules and polocies are nothing more than a hoop to jump through before they start drawing that weekly paycheck!

  • Jeff

    If a company or manager simply ignores the OSHA regs they should be cited by OSHA and if neglagence can be proven, OSHA should be able to file criminal charges. Many companies and managers look at OSHA as a fly in the ointment. They deal with them if and when they have to. These companies and managers need to understand that failing to follow the OSHA regs is a CRIME, and if someone were to be killed due to negligence, that manager should face criminal charges just as if he had ended that persons life with his own hand. If a manager understands he / she is likely to lose their house in order to pay prosecution costs and fines, or could spend 5 to 10 years in prison, they would think twice before putting people in harms way. If on the other hand, a company or manager has an associate suffer an injury because he / she failed to follow established (documented) safety protocol, OSHA should fine the individual not the company. Workers will be a lot less likely to “forget” to use proper PPE if not doing so hits them in the wallet. How about this, injured because of your own negligence….no workmans comp. People need to be treated as adults, if you get caught speeding, you get a ticket………Don’t use PPE and get hurt……..you should get a ticket, not a paid vacation sitting home on the couch.

  • http://www.desertfleet-serv.com Patrick Stimpson

    Jeff, You nailed it right on the head! I have been trying to say that all week.

  • Cindy

    Very interesting comments submitted. I work for a union company and training is now performed at the Journeyman/Apprentice Training Center as well as on-the-job. We have noticed a significant decrease (50%) in the frequency and severity of our Work Comp claims. The union also introduced drug testing which I believe had an impact as well. Our company provides bonuses based upon a foreman’s job profit, safety record and foreman training. My foremen (100 of them) are calling to come and look at their jobs to see if we can make them safer. They used to treat me like the INS “Run Forrest Run”. Our company used to be “Good Ole’ Boy” and now after 11 long years, our culture has changed and safety training is paying off big time! Our premiums are the lowest and we are a California based company. We save so much on our premiums, GL, PD, WC, etc. that me, my other field rep and our safety budget is “free” and I do not scrimp on supplies or training time. I would be interested in hearing what is working well for other companies. I could use some more money saving safety ideas. Robots are no fun….they can’t tell good jokes….

  • Guy Newport

    If I’m echoing someone else’s comments please excuse me but I believe the one factor that makes all the difference in the organizational culture is the attitude of management and supervisors regarding Safety. If they’re behind it, it’ll happen. No amount of regulation, union bashing or finger pointing at the workers will make as big a difference as a commitment to Safety from the top of the organization. It’s not the external forces that make a change in organizational culture, it’s what’s done on the inside of that organization that makes the difference.
    I might have been one of those that advocated for more regulations in the past but not any longer. If there’s more regulations, they need to focus on organizational change not the individual program details.
    Since it’s been proven that a culture supporting Safety is good for the bottom line, here’s a hint at the leverage that works: the cost of insurance. If the cost of doing business becomes so expensive when workers are injured, then companies will find a way to prevent that from occurring. Of course, that only works if any one particular state’s Workers Compensation program acts responsibly and insures justice for injured workers but that’s another kettle of fish entirely.

  • Keith

    We already have regulations that cover everything from what to wear to how to wipe your butt. The awful truth is that people will make bad decisions no matter how much training and safety material you give them and if you look at almost all construction accidents it was caused by human error and a lot of those by persons who had the highest training and experience. Workers will sometimes take shortcuts which cause an accident or injury, so until some miracle pill is developed that does away with human error more regulations and persecution of companies will have little or no effect except driving up the cost of construction projects and employees. Insurance companies now have more of an impact on safety since the threat of lawsuits and large judgments are a major concern and if you want to stay in business you need insurance and insurance companies do not want unsafe clients.
    Yes, management must implement, promote and practice safety for it to be effective but for some reason the unions seem to be insulated from liability due to the acts of their members, but the employer is not. Go figure.

  • http://www.uniqueplastering.com James Farrell

    Let’s try to simplify a little bit of what we are tlking about here!
    Let’s compare an OSHA regulation to a STOP SIGN, if you stop at a stop sign and than proceed when it is safe you are less likely to get broadsided by another car. If you do get broadsided by another car than they more than likely ignored the stop sign… much like many company’s and many individual’s ignore the standard’s. If it were not for ignorance and stupidity we wouldnt need OSHA or standards.
    With no fomal training, advanced education or background in safety I have managed to take a high risk company from an E-MOD rating of 1.37 down to a .82 with 0 lost time accidents in the last 17 months with 150 employees in right around three years by simply reading and following the OSHA regs, and implimenting OSHA’S consultation program so the excuse of high insurance prices higher construction cost’s is really just that, an excuse!
    It takes less time to do something right than it does to do it wrong!
    Every single year Grant money is handed by the Labor Commission and Federal government for workplace safety.
    They will pay you to get compliant it just takes a little effort on your part!
    I am a firm believer that it is laziness and ignorance that causes the majority of lost time accidents.
    S for the Unions… The Union leaders are put in place by the Union Worker!
    It you want to see changes put the right people in place to do the job!

  • Steve

    The postings to date serve as proof of divercity and uniqueness of each safety professional and their respective experience and industry. One must respect the others point of view at some level. On another leve one has to appreciate how painting answers with one single broad brush is not going to work for quite a few of us. Some industries are very linear and standardized as compared to others. A good segment of industry includes companies working new and developing technologies which are 90% R&D and 10% standardized production. The DOL is doing what it can to provide what the BLS is indicating and political channels will allow. Three words from the last sentence should explain my point; DOL, BLS, politics. If the rules or science applied by these three proved to be without flaw, then I’d expect they would be fit to govern every industry regardless. Would anyone argue that this is the case? I’d think not. Therfore the challenges presented in these responses all have a level of merit but those who blanket the issues with over simplified common sensical examples lack either the experience and or exposure to the whole picutre and I’d caution how one considers such responses in a forum like this. Because of our flawed system, best to accept it as a price of doing business, but not disregard the value of challenging the system where appropriate. The difference is leading and following. Followers are comfortable haveing someone tell them what and how to do things. Leaders will follow where it makes sense, and challenge the system where there is opportunity to improve, even when taking arrows in the back. Less we forget, Globalization throughout most industry is born and maturing at a rapid rate. With or without the U.S. competetion will only reward the winner. If one side is encourged and allowed to cheat to win and another is strangled and isolated from competiion all together, the loser is easy to find. The losers then disappear as do all the jobs that it provided. This is one opinion.

  • Pat Rhea

    Budget – fine. But define needs. The vast majority of federal government agencies get a ton of money and produce little.
    Legislation – bad idea. Lord knows we have enough poorly written laws and regs now. Remember the Ergonomics Standard in 2000? I have no complaints about rules and regs being put in place to keep my workers safe, but any more like the ERGO Standard we don not need. It was, at best, poorly written and researched, and extremely difficult for companies to implement, especially the backbone of our country, the small business owner. OSHA, keep your pens in your pocket!
    Keep the State programs! These folks are at least aware of the need for common sense and in 26 years of being in the SHE arena they are so much easier to work with than the feds.
    » I think OSHA should focus more on helping companies get it right. Yes, those that willfully ignore the laws need to be punished and increasing fines might do it. But again, where does common sense come in to play and where do the OSHA folks draw the line on ‘Serious’ and ‘Other’ fines. Right now it is so subjective.
    National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) generally has the stricter of the two standards and most of us will always go the safest route possible.
    Statistics: How in the world are they going to do that? I send my reports annually but there is nothing to keep me from falsifing the report other than my own personal ethics.
    Finally – there is a lot of talk about unions in the early comments. I have had the pleasure (with sarcasm) of working union and non-union sites. The only positive thing that have to say about the unions is that most of them have tons of up-to-date SHE material available for use on the jobs. Other than that, keep them out of my hair. I can get the job completed just as safe, faster, and with much less headaches in a non-union shop.

  • Kenneth

    One of the biggest problem with OSHA has been the fact that in the last five years there has been five different Acting Assist Secretaries. So when the cat is out the mice come out to play, taken advantage of this lack of leadership and doing what they want.

  • Mark

    I agree with the premise of better funding to OSHA.
    With the penalty being proposed, who would be held responsible. I have worked for quite a few different companies over the years and I will tell you that the low guy on the ladder is usually thrown under the bus when things go bad. In this case it would be the Safety Manager for it is his or her responsibility to make sure that sites are as safe as humanly possibly even if the Company supports you or not. With that said you have stated that most companies don’t want to think or support safety until someone is hurt and then fines start mounting up.
    I don’t agree with giving OSHA or any agency the right to change rules and regulations without some group evaluating these changes, so as to make it obtainable for the various corporations to comply within a reasonable time frame before fining them into closure.
    I have been working as a safety coordinator in the Mill Working industry for 6 years now and I have seen many different companies and how they rationalize why they are not safer.

  • Chuck Woodings

    I find the proposals in this article are totally in line with the present attitude of the liberal leadership of this country. I have been in construction safety for the last 20 years and if the government really wanted to improve safety they would first of all mandate more training and then all the employer to fine the employee if the safety rules were not obeyed. This could enable the employer to support his training program and place the responsibility for safety back on the employee. The employee is the one most responsible for his own safety in almost all cases. There are some true accidents where the employee has done everything correct and either through mechanical failure or material failure an accident occurs. If in the case of mechanical failure then OSHA should step in and investigate thoroughly all the causes of the accident and fine all those responsible for the incident including the worker who perhaps didn’t follow all the proper procedures.

    To critique further this article, I don’t think the writer has ever really worked or paid close attention to how people work. If a worker has found that he can get away with a short cut, then this become the STOP from then on. I realize this whole idea of putting the responsibility for following safe working procedures back on the employee’s head is contrary to the pop culture of today, it would reduce accidents infinitely, provided the employer trained them sufficiently. That would be the second catch to this idea, but this is where OSHA would have the responsibility to hold the employer to the task of training their employees.