Chain of Thought

Finally, a Positive Way to Get OSHA's Attention

When I say “workplace safety,” what comes to mind? Maybe it's a lift truck operator wearing a seat belt. It could be a safety gate separating someone on a mezzanine from a steep fall. On the other hand, if your workplace has suffered from a rash of lost-time injuries, the image of an OSHA inspector, scribbling in his citation book, might still be imprinted on your brain. He may have been writing you up for operators not wearing restraints or for employees being denied the benefits of fall protection.

This isn't just a mind game. If you can think of a particularly strong image you might win a prize—courtesy of OSHA. The Agency recently announced a nationwide photography contest called “Picture It! Safe Workplaces for Everyone.” They want anyone with a passion for photography to “capture an image of workplace safety and health and share it with the agency.”

Your prize? The glory of having your work displayed on the OSHA photo contest Web page. The first-place winner also will receive a framed letter of congratulations from Secretary Solis, and the first, second and third place winners will be framed and hung in OSHA's national office in Washington, “where they will serve as a daily reminder for leading policymakers and prominent professionals of the real-life impact of OSHA's mission.”

If you're like most facility managers, your reward for safety is to avoid being reminded of OSHA. In fact, winning a photo contest is probably lower on your list of things that keep you focused on environmental health and safety (EH&S) than factors such as ensuring compliance, concern over the risk of an adverse event, corporate mandates, or high costs of avoidance. Those are the top pressures driving professionals to focus on EH&S, according to a recent Aberdeen Group study of “Compliance Management in Environment, Health and Safety.”

Interestingly, the report's authors tell readers that even with compliance as a top market pressure, they shouldn't “over-focus” on it, and that what they really need is executive leadership and vision to achieve the best outcomes. That said, they acknowledge that events like the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill might have inspired many of the 175 executives Aberdeen interviewed to worry that this meant a more aggressive regulatory environment for everyone. And what do they associate with that environment? Cost, revenue loss and complexity.

Whatever the motivation, the real rewards for safety vigilance by the best-in-class companies represented in the Aberdeen study included: a 12% drop in safety citations compared to the previous year, a 0.3 recordable injury frequency rate, a 1% repeat accident rate and a 13% gain in operating margin vs. their corporate plan.

The report's authors link the following practices to best-in-class safety performance: automated collection of EH&S data shared with decision makers as actionable intelligence; standardized policies across all company locations; and investment in compliance management analytics.

If your company is more of a laggard than a leader where safety is concerned, maybe an OSHA photo contest is a good way to get your CEO's attention. Whether you're a professional or amateur photographer, your entry in OSHA's competition is welcome. Your interpretation of an "image of workplace safety and health" is up to you. Just keep in mind, the judges will be looking for “the most outstanding portrayals of occupational safety and health in terms of artistic value, and ability to raise awareness about safety and health to the general public.”

The full contest rules are available at

If you enter a shot of an OSHA inspector writing you a citation, I want partial credit on your entry.

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