After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

OSHA’s ‘Wake-Up’ Calls

Posted on December 3, 2010
Filed Under Business | Leave a Comment

There is much abstract, politically charged talk these days about the role of government. Which government functions are necessary, and which aren’t? We don’t know about all of them, but we’d champion the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

OSHA’s business isn’t simply  enforcement, it’s about prompting change.
OSHA proposes and enforces  the Labor Department’s rules for workplace safety. Its arrival at a factory gate can cause tremors inside. But it can also trigger lasting improvement. If you view OSHA as representing a change process, instead of a disciplinary one, much good can come from its inspections.

A 2009 post by Shane Marshall, of Livingston & Haven, an industrial technology company in Charlotte, N.C.,  explains how that can occur. “OSHA is here!” was the alarm that went off at L&H in June, 2006.  And indeed, 26 violations, including two classed as “Serious,” resulted from the agency’s three-day plant visit.

But serious reflection also occurred at the plant. That’s the really crucial part of an OSHA visit: what happens afterwards. “Thank You OSHA,” Marshall headed his post. “We realized our crisis and began to meet its challenges. A safety committee was formed and we started the long journey of creating a safety program that included training all of our associates and complying with our customer’s requirements for contractor safety.”

Two years later, at the start of 2009, the improvement process was well underway: “…we are now practicing proactive customer requirement compliance, continuing with training, training, training and are also in the process of getting into the safety business with machine hazard assessment, machine safety equipment and OSHA safety training for customers and suppliers.”

And today, Clifton B. Vann, IV, Livingston & Haven’s president, proclaims on the company’s website:

“No job is so important and no service is so urgent that we cannot take the time to perform it safely.”

That’s the sort of turnaround an OSHA inspection can promote. “It inspired us here at Livingston & Haven to inegrate safety into all aspects of our company,” Marshall wrote. “Because of that we now have a safety program and are on our way to creating a culture that thinks about safety not because we have to, but because it’s what we do.”

A safety inspection viewed as an opportunity  for constructive change – that’s the difference an OSHA “wake-up call” can make when management wants it to. And it’s a federal role, one of many,  that’s worth maintaining. – Doug Bedell


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