Posted on Jul 17, 2009
John M Grau
OSHA is looking to go back to the old days and old ways. It’s time for employers to be concerned.
Under the direction of the past administration, leaders at the Department of Labor and OSHA started down a new path by encouraging voluntary compliance programs and by working with employer groups to improve safety. The feeling was that the goal of the agency should be to improve safety, not just rack up citation statistics. Unfortunately, under the current administration, that view seems to be changing.
Over the past few years, NECA and other employer associations have had some success in developing cooperative programs with OSHA. These programs would work toward identifying safety problems and then come up with industry-wide solutions to them. The most notable of these programs is the Electrical Transmission and Distribution Partnership. The members of this coalition have worked very hard to improve safety in the line construction industry. Part of the glue that has held this group together is OSHA’s participation.
While these coalitions have not been thrown out the window, the rhetoric at the Department of Labor and in Congress has changed. We now hear how OSHA was too friendly with employers. We hear that the only way that employers will improve safety is through increased enforcement. And most disturbing of all are claims that employers, in their search of profits, are purposely putting employees in harms way.
The attitude is that employers are inherently evil. They only respond to threats of punishment and have no real concern for their employees, or so we hear. This attitude reflects a very cynical view of business in general. It totally ignores the positive role that employers have in workplace safety, and it exonerates employee behavior and absolves them of responsibility for their own safety.
Everyone can come up with examples of egregious behavior by an individual or company that led to worker injury and death. But to extrapolate this into wanton employer disregard for workplace safety is offensive.
I know that NECA and its members will continue to do the right thing in improving safety in our industry. It’s too bad that some of our nation’s leaders can’t take enough time to get down from the grandstand to see how bottom-line results are really achieved.
** NECA has started a LinkenIn discussion group for electrical safety professionals. You will need a LinkedIn profile to join the group, NECA Safety. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about using LinkedIn or joining the NECA Safety group.**