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Turn the Tables on OSHA

Feb. 27, 2014
Rather than fearing onerous regulations, take part in educating the regulators.

Regulations are keeping good companies down, according to many who responded to MH&L’s most recent Salary Survey. Toward the end of the survey we asked respondents to tell us their greatest challenges, and government regulation was a repeat violator in their eyes. One respondent didn’t hold back:

“Government—local and state and federal—does everything it can to get in the way of cost-effective business growth. If you look at the fees and restrictions on manufacturing 30 years ago compared to now, you see what the most difficult challenges are.”

OSHA wasn’t mentioned in particular, but it plays a big part in that government regulatory machine. And I’m sure the companies that have been pinched for violating various guidelines might be among those who would cheer the sentiment of that survey respondent. Take Globus Printing & Packaging Co., for example. This Minster, Ohio company was the subject of one of those dreaded daily OSHA press releases announcing serious violations. This one was dated February 19th and it announced that Globus was cited for 24 safety and health violations, carrying proposed penalties of $91,800. More than half of those violations were designated “serious,” and included:

  • Failing to provide electrical personal protective equipment for employees doing electrical work.
  • Failing to remove damaged forklifts from service.
  • Failing to maintain exit lighting and an employee alarm system.

Health violations included:

  • Failing to maintain an environment free of combustible dust.
  • Not ensuring employees used eye and face protection.
  • Failing to conduct and certify a personal protective equipment assessment.
  • Lack of an eyewash station in the battery servicing area.
  • Failing to ground drums when dispensing flammable liquids.
  • Lack of training in hazard communication and safe chemical handling.

Here’s what I see as the challenge where OSHA is concerned. Among the “other-than-serious” violations listed was “failing to conduct forklift training at least every three years.” How can that be “other than serious” when powered industrial trucks are consistently in OSHA’s Top 10 list of citations? In fact according to OSHA there was a 45 percent increase in citations last year over the same list the year before. It seems like people are getting dumber about lift trucks even as their bosses get more upset about regulations.

You and I can carp all day about the dumb and onerous authority OSHA wields, but I’m still glad it’s there. I’m also glad there are those in private industry who take an active role in keeping regulators on the rails guiding them along their mission. Lift truck manufacturer  Konecranes, for example, announced it will join the technical advisory group (TAG) representing the United States, advising on the development of a global ISO Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems (OHSMS) standard. This standard aims to provide guidance for industries and governmental agencies around the world to improve worker safety. Its development was inspired by the recent rash of deaths in the garment industry, particularly the Bangladesh factory collapse that made headlines last year.

The TAG will advise the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) on voting positions relevant to the newly proposed OHSMS standard and will meet to discuss issues related to the standard’s development. As the U.S. member body to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ANSI accredits TAGs such as this one to develop and transmit U.S. positions on ISO technical activities.

So you can carp all you like about stupid regulations. That’s your right as a U.S. citizen. But you also enjoy the freedom to educate the regulators and make them smart. But before you do, make sure you and the people working for you are being smart about safety under your own roof.

(If you'd like a virtual tour of that OSHA Citations List, we put together a gallery of video tutorials to illustrate commentary from Cintas, a provider of safety equipment. CLICK HERE TO GO TO THE GALLERY.