Safety and OSHA News

Is OSHA going too far?


The cries for less government have become more frequent these days, including in reader comments on this website when OSHA ramps up enforcement or rulemaking. One frequent argument is that OSHA’s regulations hurt the U.S. economy.

A recent article in the Idaho Statesman by an economist takes a look at the question: Would we be better off if we got rid of “job-killing OSHA?”

Economist Ed Lotterman sums up the situation this way: We don’t want people to be killed at work. But many people are willing to take certain risks in their personal lives every day. And companies often don’t have difficulty finding people willing to do dangerous jobs.

Therefore, should government intrude into the private agreement between employer and employee?

Lotterman suggests an answer to his own question. First, he admits that OSHA regulations raise the cost of labor, at least somewhat. That could cause some companies to hire fewer workers.

The costs to business vary greatly, according to Lotterman, and are smaller than many people think.

For Lotterman, the question then becomes, what is the value of lives saved and injuries avoided relative to the cost of regulation?

While it’s difficult for most to put a price on human life, Lotterman suggests it is neither small nor infinitely large.

Coming up with the exact figure may be difficult, but Lotterman says society clearly is better off if a life is saved for every $10,000 spent on workplace safety. However, should that amount rise to $10 billion per life, we would be worse off.

But, what about the free-market argument that it’s up to employees to decide whether the risks involved with a particular job are worth the offered wages? If it becomes difficult for employers to hire workers to do dangerous jobs, they either have to raise wages or reduce the risks.

Lotterman says there’s one problem with that viewpoint: an information gap. Many employees don’t have accurate information about the risks involved. With bad or incomplete information, they can’t make reasoned decisions when comparing risks to wages.

Lotterman concludes that the free market doesn’t lead to “a social optimum.” He says government action may make things better.

For those who think, “OSHA is out of control,” Lotterman offers these thoughts. He’s not saying that everything the agency has done in the past 40 years has made total sense. Example: He doubts requiring dairy farms to post signs that manure may make floors slippery has generated any “net benefit for society.”

On the other hand, Lotterman cites shoring requirements for trench walls as a worthwhile OSHA regulation. Requiring trench walls or boxes has greatly reduced the number of construction worker deaths each year, and that’s worth the cost to business, according to Lotterman.

And he concludes that, no matter which candidates are elected to office, OSHA isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Is the new leadership at OSHA going too far? Where do you draw the line between good OSHA regulation and bad? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.

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  1. Dave Innes says:

    Here are a couple of the more of the good & bad… Good – Fall protection Bad – warning lables on ladders.

  2. Hugh Sauer says:

    My experience with OSHA has improved over the years. In the past few years I have run into officials who seem genuinly interested in helping us make our facility safer for the workers without shutting us down. They have been truly helpful in our efforts to be proactive in safety.
    The other side of the coin is that some OSHA directives are not practical though I believe them to be the exception, not the rule. We are talking about human beings here.
    In summery, we don’t want a work place that does not have some restrictions yet one that is without some danger is unproductive. So far, it appears OSHA is drawing that divideing line fairly well.

  3. SafetyMan says:

    OSHA needs to focus on major issues at the high-risk-high-incident industries and companies. When no major violations are evident, the intent of most inspections seems to shift to collecting fines and justifying the inspector’s existence. Hence, when nothing major is found, the trivial violation is inevitable. OSHA serves a purpose, but that purpose should not include burdening businesses with trivial matters. OSHA is from the government, but they definitely are NOT here to help.

  4. I wish OSHA would just slow down; enforce what they have and when there are satisfactory results…look to expand. Instead, heads are swimming not knowing what to do while the threats of fines go up. OSHA what is your mission? To make people have safe work environments or to generate your salaries? Surely, they can overlap but…


  5. What is to far in safety if you let one thing slide it could be fatal

  6. To totally disregard OSHA would serve to be ridiculous. OSHA keeps companies in check so the employee can go home safe to his/her families. In 1960 there were over 14,000 fatalities on the job site. There were 200 million people in the U.S.A. in 1960. OSHA was created in 1970 and by 2006, there were only 5,840 fatalities with a population of over 300 million. That is a very dramatic decrease in fatalities.

    OSHA has its moments where they are being too critical in fines to companies and other costs as well. OSHA should be more helpful in helping companies find the areas where they need improvement without the hefty fines.

    Overall, we need OSHA and there knowledge in safety. We need companies to fear them or respect them enough to make the employee’s work enviornment safe. What we dont need is for OSHA to slam fines everytime they find a problem to the point where we are losing jobs or opportunities because of it.

  7. I am curious exactly which of his family members is Mr Lotterman willing to give up? I would like to see him try and have a reasoned conversation with the wives of the miners who wer recently lsot in West Virgina, or those on the oil rig that recently exploded. The problem with too many private sector employers is that we are often times too willing to risk a fine (not thinking that a deah will occur) for the sake of profitability. The problem is exactly as Me Says explained: fines do not stop bad companies from doing bad and stupid things – throw some executives into jail for deaths that occur – accidents do happen, but when invesitgated most of those accidnets are not accidntal, but due to sloppy or carelss work, poor enforcement of existing safety rules and rpactices, and yes o occasion because a cpomany takes a calculated risk and loses

  8. The true spirit of OSHA died many years ago. Back when OSHA really meant something is was a lifesaver to the workers who were subject to the risks that employers would force them to face. Now, it has become nothing more than a bureaucratic paper mill that parks its enforcement officers outside of your facility to determine how much cash they can bilk you of. Being a government entity it is naturally staffed with the fallouts that wouldn’t or couldn’t be employed by the private sector, and who have an axe to grind with industry. If it sounds like I have an axe to grind…I do. I just can’t take them seriously anymore. When a State Trooper pulls you over to cite you for speeding, is his/her primary concern your safety? No…it’s about revenue. That’s what OSHA is all about nowadays…revenue.

  9. Chuck C says:

    Unfortunately, OSHA is at least partially self funded. When funds run low their field inspectors are instructed to increase citations which lead to forfietures and generate revenue. Every employer is morally responsible for providing a worker with as safe of an environment as possible to work in. Every employer is responsible for educating their employees and or contractors of the hazards found in that workplace. Where it gets fuzzy is when an employee is expected to perform work that is beyond the dangers/hazards that are normally expected or takes it upon himself to perform the duties in an unsafe manner.

    In my opinion, OSHA should also cite a worker who violates a safety regulation….if he does so without the knowledge or permission by the company that he is working for. Unfortunately OSHA goes for the party with the deepest pockets.

  10. Does OSHA go overboard in various areas? Undoubtedly. But the authors statement that people will require higher salaries or not take dangerous jobs is may be valid in a vibrant, robust economy, but I know that when I was out of work there were significantly more risky jobs that I would accept out of pure Necessity, rather than free market economics.

    What about those jobs that many people would take not even knowing that there was dangerous issues that OSHA addressed behind the scenes. Finally, consider the Upper Big Branch mine incident. What company can you trust to truthfully state how safe it’s facilities are? The mine owner considered their mines safe, but I can guaranty that there are at least 29 families that will disagree with them.

  11. Plain and simple. Choices are made every minute of every day. If an employee makes the choice to take a risk – that’s his choice. Companies spend enormous amounts of time and money providing safety training for their employees. When an employee makes the choice that he will take a risk – he’s putting the company at risk. If caught or killed by his choice there should be no recourse against the company and no workman’s comp benefits paid. The employee can also walk away from an unsafe condition. If they are retaliated against by the company -they can call me. OSHA does not currently fine unsafe employees.

  12. In reality OSHA is deligated to ramp up in response to tragic events plagued by Companies that are way to eager to just roll the dice and gamble. If these big companies would just pay up front for the expertise required and the support needed to effectively manage a well rounded program then everybody might just be a little better of. OSHA should not try and introduce new regulations until they can get the BP’s of the world to comply with the already tangable rules. Everyone has to understand that a public outcry in world events begins when it hits the media and people want a reponse. An direct response should always be, ” was the Company doing what they should,” and that is protecting their workers.

  13. Angelia says:

    Interesting topic. Ya’ know, when Worker’s Comp was introduced, there were Supreme Court cases piled one on top of the other from private businesses fighting the implementation. How dare the government tell us we have to pay for a worker’s injury? We should be able to regulate ourselves, shouldn’t we? That was almost 100 years ago…does anyone still question the need for a “no fault” system of injury compensation? 100 years from now, when OSHA has grown to be the autocratic monster that WC has become, what will people in our positions think then? I agree with Chuck (and Safety John)…as long as OSHA is self-funded (at least partially), the “enforcement” and fines for minutia will continue as a revenue generating enterprise, allowing the OSHA hierarchy to lose sight of their mission; to protect people.

  14. Dave Julian says:

    There are too many greedy, malicious business owners to not have OSHA doing what they are doing. And for the honest ones, the cost of OSHA compliance is balanced by the savings in workers’ compensation costs from doing things the right way from a safety standpoint.

  15. Wilbur1 says:

    Take a look at the enforcement fines of USEPA, USDA, the FCC, and a host of other federal agencies. They have a fine system that sanctions employers where it hurts most – at the bottom line. This current administration is attempting to put OSHA at that same level. We, as safety professionals, cannot take the stand that fines will hurt an industry, when fines and sanctions for polluting the environment are 10 to 100 times greater than an OSHA violation. Sure, the dynamics and controls are totally different in most cases, but if you have an employee that is trained and turns the wrong valve at the wrong time and ends up dumping polluted effluent into the river vs. into the treatment system, do you think the USEPA will fine the employee vs. fining the employer? No, the employer will get the fine and a very large one. The logic of blaming the worker is antiquated. OSHA looks at adequate training and supervision. Many companies take the chance and knowingly put their employees at risk. Many employees accept the risk for many reasons, most of them are economic, some are behavioral, some just don’t know any better because they have never been trained. Blast OSHA all you want. If you don’t see the benefits, you don’t belong in this business of protecting lives. If OSHA did not exist, we would see worker fatality rates continually rise instead of fall because unscrupulous capitalist employers would only see the body counts as small figures impacting an overall bottom line on a spread sheet. In addition, most of you would be employed in another field as employers would see no need for you. Just as if there were no USEPA, there would be no need for many Environmental Engineers, no IRS – no CPAs, etc..

  16. Why is OSHA always the scapegoat in every one of these forums?

  17. Lee Schwartzrock says:

    I’ve noticed some excellent comments on this subject. It seems that we have to have some government because we cannot police ourselves. However, there is still the economic problem that will get very urgent, real soon. I used to think that cheap labor was the reason for our chronic loss of manufacturing jobs, but along with it is the issue of worker protection, and invirionmental protection. Good pay, good health, and a clean invirionment requires a sound economy fueled by a profit margin that we no longer have. We demand the good life, but we are not willing to pay for it. Those wonderful cheap goods at Wally World were not made under OSHA guidelines.

  18. Most regulartory bodies are somewhat self-supporting through fines against companies. While OSHA has not paid my company a visit, both the EPA and DOT have and we have eliminated three workers and two lines of business due to their investigations and we were only found “guilty” of paperwork violations. The EPA issued a stop sale because of few incorrect numbers and a comma in the wrong place on a product label that no one reads (I polled our customers and every one said they never read it!). So two jobs down! The DOT levied a $16,000 fine against a $100k line of business because wording was in the wrong order on the paperwork and label. One more job down. When the DOT inspector was asked a question he would have to look it up in his book or get back to me. So if the inspector doesn’t know the law how is a small business owner to know? Never was anyone hurt or any property damaged as a result of our operations. Let’s have some common sense when it comes to enforcement!!!!

  19. Chuck Campbell says:

    I certainly agree with employees being held accountable, just as I feel employers should be responsible stewards of the lives that their actions reflect upon. But, and unfortunately, it is very evident that OSHA has switched it’s focus from that of supporting both the employee and employer in creating/sustaining a safe work environment, to that of simply being a revinue generating engine for the federal government…. Instead of now having to fear the very entity which is here to “SERVE” us, why don’t we try this on for size: OSHA, upon the first recognition of a hazard may only give notice of the violation and then schedule a return visit to ensure abatement of the hazard. At this point, if the hazard has not been abated then appropriate fines should ensue. Companies would be more apt to correct a hazard if they knew they would be fined in 30 days rather than after the fact.

  20. Dan Piennette says:

    Under the B. Hussein Obama regime of course OSHA is going way to far. People cannot or will not grasp the reality of this regime and his thugs from Chicago. They are hell bent on destroying as much of the United States economy and American way of life and traditions as they can and they really do not care who or what they destroy in the process. It’s awful to think we still have 2 and a half years to deal with this crap then try to put what’s left of America back together.

  21. chris r says:

    OSHA is a joke. They are nothing more than a revenue generating arm of the government. I am currently contesting a citation for failing to provide documentation within the four hour window. I wouldn’t contest it if their inspector had shown up for the closing conference when promised. He chose to show up 10 weeks after he said he would. And his area director is supporting the citation. Nothing like a douible standard. His informal conference was a joke. If we operated like OSHA does, we would be out of business.

  22. This was a good article with equally thought-provoking responses from everyone. Yes, I do have an axe to grind with OSHA, but I do believe that without some type of regulation; we would be at the mercy of unscrupulous employers. I do also believe that we have a moral obligation to our employees, but with the caveat that employees are also accountable for their actions. Angelia drove the point home when she said that minutia is the revenue generator for OSHA. I learn and benefit more from my Safety Contacts than I’ve ever learned from an “omnipotent” and “government protected” OSHA Auditor; even if they claim that they are here to “help”. Again, I have something to learn from all of you. Have a safe and happy day!

  23. Mr. Safety says:

    Some of you have a valid point. If you get rid of OSHA things could get worse. I worked for Federal OSHA for 17 years and as a so called “OSHA Cowboy” we really didn’t care about the safety of workers because we were held to the beauracratic statistical standard of paperwork. You go in to OSHA to save the world from unsafe contractors and employers but that soon erodes away to the government way of thinking.
    It doesn’t matter what anyone says…….when you work for OSHA you had better get your so called “NUMBERS”.
    You are expected to conduct so many inspections per year and issue a certain amount of “Serious” and/or “Willful” citations. If you don’t your just not a very good OSHA enforcement officer. And believe me most of them are all out for number one and and try to move up in the organization.
    Oh yea……if you get a good ole “Willful” over 100,000 dollars you might even get a day off with pay. That is so cool.
    The OSHA system is fat, the OSHA system is no longer defined as it was when the organization originated, administrations now use the system as a source of revenue, so called executive safety people who go into these high positions usually come from the environmental side who think all employers are bad bad people and must be stopped, safety professionals who think even one death is too much does NOT mean regulate the hell out of everybody and cite them out of business. We can’t all live in a fricking bubble. A death does not have to be a part of doing business but with training and education of employees we can limit the number of serious injuries and death.
    OSHA’s function should be to assist employers and cite the bad guys. Just because you might be cited does not make you a bad employer. The Directive for establishing Repeat and Willful Citations needs to be revised to less of a blanket citation. What does that mean…every situation and/or condition must be judged on its own merit. Using a blanket statement like……any condition or workpractice that is similiar to one that was cited before can be used against the employer to establish and Repeat or Willful Citation is crap.
    Yes I’m ticked, yes I hate this administration and the way they treat employers in my country. No wonder employers go to other countries to do business. The government is regulating them out of here. Pretty simple concept.
    OSHA and the EPA need to be reigned in big time and I don’t know who out there has the balls to do it. You have too many people who just don’t get it.
    I’m out of here.

  24. Wilbur1 says:

    Moderator – try doing your job!
    I am no big fan of the current administration, but OSHA needs a long overdue overhaul.
    Can we try and leave the political rhetoric out of these discussions – please!

  25. Our men are safety trained EVERY week early in the a.m.. They are supplied with the most up to date fall protection and safety gear available. We are a small roofing company and spend about $20,000 per year on safety equipment. When they break a safety rule it is not because they were not trained properly. OSHA ahould and must investigate each safety violation and make each individual responsible for their actions. That is the individual should pay the fine. The employer should pay the fine if they are remiss in proper training and lack of safety gear etc., but each employee should be held accountable for his or her unsafe actions.

  26. Earl Hain says:

    This lively discussion could prove to be fruitful if those in control of the switches and levers that make the engines of our economy run were tuned in… If so inclined, please write to your congressman as to how you feel about the issue of OSHA regulation. There has been much discourse here regarding the need for OSHA to get back to it’s mission of protecting folks and thus companies, I agree. It is unfortunate that folks have lost jobs as a result of OSHA interventions. I would say that we need to look at the training of the OSHA staff and ensure that their case loads are appropriate… that sounds to me like they would probably be considered understaffed by most standards, which would mean that they would need to grow in size in order to become more effective. The same could be said for the FDA, EPA, XYZ… It sounds like I’m a proponent of big GOV. Hardly… I don’t want them messing with me any more than the next guy. If Dan can tell me how his vomit of an excuse for discussion can be considered constructive then I will listen to him. Until then, somebody else needs to figure out a way to get private/corporate enterprise to do the right thing. If you can figure out a way that doesn’t hit them in the pocket book, then be my guest.

  27. I don’t think OSHA is going too far. There are still too many companies that are WAY too dangerous and need to be, not just fined, but shut down. The recent coal mine accident should never have happened. When a company has that many citations against them and they do not comply with the regulations, they need to be temporarily shut until they do comply. The same for BP Oil, what does a silly fine do? But, take away thier operations and suddenly they are willing to comply and lives are saved.

  28. Angelia says:

    “Can we try and leave the political rhetoric out of these discussions – please!”

    Come on, Wilbur1…do you honestly (honestly, now…in your heart) believe that OSHA (as well as any federal agency) is anything BUT a political club to be wielded by any administration? As stated by Mr. Obama’s own appointee, OSHA is “back in the enforcement business”… insinuating the political “rhetoric” of outreach and cooperation championed by the previous administration was NOT part of the enforcement business? Anytime federal agencies are involved, it’s always political.

    However, as testified to by previous participants of this forum, OSHA has overstepped and overstated its own importance by failing (at least in the last 15-20 years or so) to make significant progress…TRUE progress…to protect American workers. OSHA’s current goal, in my humble opinion, is all about the money, manipulation, and control; none of which are the intended purpose of the agency.

  29. A little different perspective.
    OSHA does go overboard BUT where do you draw the line to protect the dummy’s who have no common sense.
    I would rather keep OSHA and get rid of unions. Unions had their place but now there is OSHA and labor laws. I would trade OSHA for unions anytime.

  30. Wilbur1 says:

    Soap box rhetoric can be done elsewhere, maybe a “tea party” discussion site.

    Constructive criticism on OSHA with sensible and viable alternatives for reform need to be tossed around, discussed and taken to your congressmen/women. Spouting off is only one way to help, going the long road is the other way to reform.

  31. There is a place for OSHA in this world. All one has to do is look at those viral emails that make the rounds showing what construction workers do in other countries (scaffolding with lashed together bamboo, using breakfast chairs to level your scaffolding, guys swinging sledge hammers at rocks while wearing sandals, etc)…
    But the problem with OSHA is that they ware never consistent and just like law enforcement, rely too much on subjective views. You have one inspector that will come it, talk to you, tell you to fix this, watch that, and so on and then a month later another inspector might criticize what you are doing even though the previous one recommended it.
    And granted these large corporations that handle millions upon millions of dollars of work can deal with a $50,000 fine for bad scaffolding while the small sub contractor with 12 employees takes a massive hit with something like that, almost towards closing up.

    I applaud OSHA for what they are meant to do but I despise their methods and virtually untouchable power.

  32. Chuck Campbell says:

    Linda commented above about BP’s oil spill and the coal mine incident. Are these not perfect examples of what everyone’s talking about? These were literal gold mines for OSHA: Just consider the evidence (specially the coal mine;) If saving lives were the true concern, then those with the power to shut down the operation would have certainly done so, right? I mean, once you impose massive fines on a company and return to find that they are continuing operations as if the fine is simply an operating cost, then any sensible person would have to conclude that the operation must be shut down to save lives. But, on the other hand, if you’re simply in the business of collecting revinue in the form of fines and lives are of little worth in comparison, then you would just keep imposing fines but let the operation run. So, what’s our conclusion? Operations were ALLOWED to keep running, OSHA made a mint, and alot of people died (the evidence speaks for itself!)

  33. There is truth in what SafetyJohn says. OSHA ‘ guiding force is revenue. Why do certain rules apply only to companies with a stipulated number of employees. Why does OSHA inspect sites only of certain size companies. Is it becasue employees working for smaller companies are less valuable to their families? NO! It is becasue with the resources available OSHA has to maximize their revenue. Why cite companies that cannot pay the fine?

    We are a construction company of 150+ emnployees. Sites on which we have worked have been inspected 21 times in 09 and 13 times thus far in 10. Yes we are compliant with OSHA regs (no fines in last two years), but we are now losing business to smaller companies that do not comply with OSHA regs, hence do not incurr the cost of doing so, and can therefore offer their product at lower cost.

  34. Ted Bean says:

    Mr. Safety worked for OSHA and I feel his pain. I spent 30 years with other federal agencies. The administrative model for government is to compare each office with every other office, and for the sake of promotions and bonuses your numbers better be in line with the others–or better. Since not all jurisdictions are equal, numbers get fudged and there’s a lot of point-stretching to keep up the average. Still, most federal workers do the best job for the country that they are allowed to do by the nature of the system, OSHA included.

  35. SafetyLady says:

    Has OSHA gone too far? They have six pages of regulations describing how to properly use a ladder. That’s about 5 pages too far. As the safety director in a family-owned business, I see how the cost of complying with OSHA regulations hits a small business in the pocketbook pretty hard. We spend a lot of money to make sure our workers are safe. Yes, we want to comply because we don’t want fines–not because the fines may hurt us in our personal pocketbooks, but these fines may cause us to reduce jobs, raise prices for customers, switch to inferior raw materials, etc. I read the regulations carefully and do my best to keep up with all of them, but I do not doubt that if OSHA came in, they would find something. For those of you who think business owners are “greedy, malicious, unscrupulous capitalists,” you are clueless. The truly greedy ones are those who want something for nothing. They are not willing to put out effort, time, hard work and certainly not capital to accomplish anything, but they want us all to pay for their lifestyle. THAT’S GREED. As far as maliciousness, I think putting a fine on a small business that may put some of their workers out of a job is malicious. Now you have someone who was working hard to provide for his family out of a job so some government agency can justify their existence. As far as unscrupulous capitalists, you’ve got the right noun, but the wrong adjective. We’re proud, principled capitalists. But I will not allow the government to determine what those principles are for me. After all, Stalin had principles–would you want him to determine yours?

  36. OSHA is the reason many of you have jobs!!

  37. Mr Bumble says:

    There is absolutely too much gov regulation. Disband OSHA. Let’s go back to the days of Oliver Twist.

  38. SafetyMan says:

    A few of the postings mention fining the unsafe worker. Now THAT would get employees’ attention. It will never happen for a couple of reasons. It would become a quagmire because the employee would claim they didn’t receive the proper training, and it then becomes the employer’s responsibility to demonstrate they did provide proper training. Also, if you’re OSHA, who do you think you have the better chance of collecting a fine from, the living-hand-to-mouth employee or the (supposedly) deep-pocket employer? For any given company there could be dozens, maybe hundreds of individual employee citations and collection would be a nightmare. (Of course, there is always the old payroll garnishment route.) I like the idea of fining employees, but I won’t see that happen during my career. Especially if the Liberals remain in power.

  39. Chuck C says:

    Unfortunately, until only affective way to get some people’s attention is through their pocketbooks.

  40. OSHA, and the EPA for that matter, should be disbanded totally. And if re-established at all, it should be with mandate of assistance and at 25 to 30% of the size they are now. If they don’t have the solution, they don’t make the regulation – period. Time to stuff the Big Government Nanny State Genie back in the bottle.

  41. Chuck Campbell — both of the situations that you cited — the BP oil spill and the coal mine incident do not fall under OSHA’s jurisdiction. Try reading the Field Operations Manual on Some of you need to get your facts straight about OSHA (the reason they don’t cite employees, regulations on how to use a ladder, perception of the agency’s “power”, etc, ad nauseum). I too used to work for OSHA and I KNOW that they were not strict enough! I would encourage any of you to work awhile for the ‘enemy’ and you will soon see that OSHA is not the boogey man that most perceive them to be. You cannot rely on OSHA to manage your own safety and health program and you cannot blame OSHA when they find violations! They can’t find them if they are not there. If you have REAL problems with OSHA, contact the Secretary of Labor directly and make your voice count.

    These types of articles do nothing to promote safety and health in any way. I will no longer read Safety News Alert and will encourage my friends that are motivated to find proactive safety solutions to do the same.

  42. I was going to say what Chuck said…the BP falls under MMS and Mines fall under MSHA. OSHA would not have had juristiction or any say so for that matter. BUT…..Nuff said.

  43. Angelia says:
  44. Chuck C says:

    OSHA has a separate set of regulations for mining.

  45. The BP oil spill falls under the Coast Guard because the oil derrick is gone. The employees on the derrick themselves fall under OSHA.

  46. Many people keep bringing up the issue of OSHA not having control over BP. Be that as it may, any examples using BP or Upper Big Branch Mine are just that, examples. While the contributor may be citing these issues, as they are recent, just change the name of the company to one in an industry subject to OSHA, and it will still be a good way of illustrating how while OSHA may and has gone overboard, they still have value.

  47. As we learn more and more about the best way to manage people is with positive input and coaching OSHA seems to be going backwards. It has been proven in scientific studies that the motivation factor is strongly supported, not by a sharp stick or a dangling carrot but by working with the wrong doers and helping them understand what, why and how.

    OSHA should continue to coach and educate companies while eventually punishing the worst that refuse to learn and change. Of course they should not justify their salaries by fines for trivial corrections but should focus on changing the most risky behavior. I’m sure there are some within OSHA that feel this way but when the directives flow down hill we must blame the leaders.

  48. Dave O. says:

    I believe that too much power is invested in OSHA, EPA, and other agencies. Seperation of powers is what makes government effective, and less corrupt. I don’t think disbanding OSHA altogether is a good thing. I also don’t believe that the power of a legislator, policeman, investigator, judge, and jury should all be wrapped up in one organization. OSHA can serve as a free market organization if their powers were seperated. My idea:
    Legislative and Rules – Leave it to Congress, States, or Local governments – Congress, States, or Local governments can elect safety representatives to serve on Safety Legislative comittees who can introduce legislation to Congress that gets at actual safety related crimes instead of nitpicking at paper work.
    Enforcement – Federal, State, Local Executive branches designate certain individuals to serve as specifically occupational safety enforcement officers. If a certain government entity needs more enforcement officers because they have more companies than they can request the use of an enforcement officer from its higher governement. The primary role for these folks should be to get to accident scenes and ensure proper care of victims, ensure evidence of scene is collected and preserved, and collect witness statements, and fix the workstation protect others from getting hurt if workstation caused the injury, fee shall be assesed to person determined liable by court.
    Safety Courts, at all necessary levels – people with experience in safety who judge the evidence collected by safety enforcement officer, and determine who is liable.
    Safety Judges, at all necessary levels – presides over court and sentencing.
    I know it sounds kind of lame, at first, but may be it will help encourage safety and control government corruption. Thoughts?

  49. Don O I think your really on to something. I’m not sure the government is going to want to totally change the infrstructure of Safety, but something like this would get high profile attention toward large companys that are extremely unsafe. Establishments need to get shut down BEFORE innocent people get killed. Stop unnecessary deaths and prosecute repeat offenders that just refuse to provide a safe workplace environment.

  50. Dave O. Sorry.

  51. Angelia says:

    Interesting idea, David O. Not to put too fine a point on it though, and not to critique too harshly, but: 1. Who’s going to pay for this extended and newly created system of regulation and legislation? Salaries, benefits, overhead all have to come from somewhere. If the federal system delegates authority in favor of affording states and local governments the ability to govern this aspect of safety rules and regulations, I doubt seriously if the federal government will want to fully fund this endeavor. And if the funding must come from the state levels, will states like Arkansas and Mississippi, who rank lowest on the median income scales, be able to afford the same levels of coverage, with respect to enforcement, as wealthier states, such as New Jersey or Maryland, who rank highest on the median income levels?
    2. If regulations of this sort are left to the state/local levels, how would you account for various programs, processes, and requirements of companies that cross state lines? Who would have jurisdiction? What about multi-national companies? My “boss” works in another state (or country, for that matter)…who goes to jail when I follow his direct orders? I know, it sounds a little like a Nazi defense, doesn’t it? “I was only following orders”….but that type of defense and those types of issues could tie up the “safety” court system for years, if not decades.
    3. What qualifications would be required, by state/local level, for these officers and judges? Who determines, by state/local level, if an individual meets that qualification or criteria? Is a safety judge in New Mexico have the same qualifications as a safety judge in Florida? And would each level afford reciprocity for conviction/sentencing? If so, what about extradition of “my boss” from another state? Who has that authority? If there is no authority, then the court system itself is moot.

    Sorry, David, to rip this to shreds. I know…on the surface, I agree. Dividing the “power” of such an agency as OSHA (or any other federal conglomerate) to provide the system of checks and balances that has always been inherent in our governmental systems sounds like a great idea, but I can’t see this type of implementation occurring any time during our lifetimes. “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it”. Once power in government is attained, it is almost never surrendered.

    The purpose of OSHA is to develop specific work place standards and policies for businesses to follow, to make sure that they establish partnerships toward improving working environments, and to assure the safety and health of America’s workers by studying and enforcing standards, providing training, outreach, and education.

    Do I think OSHA should be disbanded? Of course not. Only a fool would believe that industry can be fully self-regulating as evidenced by that fact that people still die everyday in this country as a direct result of the work they perform. Do I believe that OSHA is overstepping its authority and purpose? Yes, I do. With statements like “there’s a new sheriff in town”, and “we’re back in the enforcement business”, and rumors of dumping the VPP cooperative efforts, the OSHA upper echelon is alienating good business owners via threats and intimidation, and really not putting the scare into the one’s who know how to work the system.

    Keep thinking though, David. I’m sure the solution is out there somewhere.

  52. Safety C3 says:

    Very interesting points of view. Some on the extreme side both top and bottom when answering the question of “Why OSHA”.
    It is certainly evident that OSHA has made an impact. Positively or negatively…that could be debated for ever. The concept of losing a large amount of money to an OSHA citation for blatantly ignoring the principle of providing a safe working environment for employees persuades me to believe that OSHA has had a positive impact in increasing the awareness of safety in the last few decades. I remember vividly working in the oil business, being told to enter a confined space with atomized airborne drilling mud belching from the opening of a mud tank, without being afforded or allowed any type of health protection. I can still hear the captain of the work boat threatening me with job loss for refusing to do so. To that end, I commend OSHA.

    My cautious objection is to the trigger happy compliance officer dedicating his/her career to increasing their organization’s self-contained, self-utilized, bottom line. Seperate the worker bees from the honey. Shooting from the hip, one proposal might be to keep the fines collected out of the OSHA pockets. Perhaps the fines levied against a company should go into a trust fund that would subsidize training programs and safety equipment. For Petes sakes, have you priced Fall Protection equipment lately?

    People are people; always have been, always will. You have good and bad so there needs to be a standard; a line in the sand if you will. Re-examine the fine structure and make the fines appropriate to the offense.

  53. I have been in business for 10yrs now and pride myself in the safety of my facility. In that ten year span, we had one minor accident where an employee cut his arm and required stitches. Recently, I had the unpleasant experience of my first “random” OSHA inspection. In the inspection, OSHA found nothing dangerous, yet I STILL received 3 frivolous violations and fines of $2000. The violations were: No CPR/First Aid cert on staff, No OSHA Hazcom manual, No Accident Illness report. In order: I am 1 mile from the rescue squad which eliminates the necessity, I have a safety training manual – it simple does not say OSHA, and I have not had any accidents – so the file was empty and put into old file storage. They are all about revenue generation. In Va, Osha conducts 800 inspections a year and writes 500 citations. Since their inception, 60000 inspections and 39000 citations. The ratio has not changed. This is not a coincidence.

  54. SafetyMan says:

    Per Scott’s experience, it’s all about the money for OSHA. The inspector had to find something to justify his existence.

  55. Filipino_Kid says:

    Well, in my opinion it’s better having em controlled, unlike here in the Philippines. Its lucky enough if you’d get paid right & given the use of PPE’s but most end up with firms with supervisors getting part of the worker’s salaries ( e.g. if the head office gives out a salary of P350.00 , when it gets to the jobsite, the supervisor gets P100.00 and just gives the remaining P250.00 as salary, and you get the same without the premium for overtime work ) There have been instances when accidents happen, supervisors just cover it up just so word don’t get out so government regulators won’t shut them down. The worst part of it is that if your dead they’ll just cover it up by adding the body to whatever part of the construction ( e.g. foundation concreting, stp, etc. ) and when their next of kin looks for them, they’ll just tell them “no one by that name works here” or something like it. If you’re able to survive, they’ll just bring you to the nearest medical facility and leave you there to fend for yourself, with the lack of control you won’t be able to sue, since they wont actually be adding you to their employee list..

    Think about Dennis Rodman would have said it.. “The best defense is offense”

  56. Frustrated says:

    Osha has become nothing but a money making limb of Big Brother. No doubt, today’s younger workforce has not been raised as they should have; instead of taking them outside and teaching them a craft or trade, all were thrown in front of a tv, computer or video game so they “wouldn’t be in the way”. This has led to Osha trying to make the workplace “Idiot Proof”. There is no place for idiots on a construction site. Aside from all other things, FALL PROTECTION… holy crap guys. I mean, I’m all for being safe, but this is ridiculous. I install ornamental handrails and they make it damn near impossible to get a job done. By the time we get there for a final installation, the ceilings are in, the finish floors are done, walls are painted, there are no places to tie off. They’re great at telling you what you can’t do, but of no help whatsoever for what can be done. I know the dangers of our job and I take all kinds of precautions to make things as safe as possible, block off the stair while we are erecting handrail, keeping our work areas clean of trip hazards, etc. I can’t count how many times I’ve tripped over my stupid harness and almost gone over because of it.

  57. Frustrated says:

    Solely for

  58. Chuck C says:

    An elephant is a mouse that was designed by a committee. OSHA has become that elephant. If we aren’t careful we are forced into having safety devices for safety devices. Many times the safety devices themselves cause a greater danger than the danger that they were designed to protect us from.

    Part of the reason that payroll varies from industry to industry are the physical demands and the degree of risk that a person could expect while performing a job. Not to take away from a Librarian but for example a Librarian should not expect to experiance the dangers that Firefighter, an assembly line person, or a construction worker would expect and therefore, should not expect the portion of the pay for the hazards.


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