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Archive for June 28th, 2010

It’s interesting to me to see cycles in the work place. It seems to me that early in the industrial age the thought of a safe work place was quite simply “be careful”. I’ve seen pictures of men working on the erection of the Empire State Building with no fall protection, no hard hats, no sign stating how many days they had gone without an accident, minimal safety equipment what-so-ever!  In just a quick search (and my next statement may be totally bogus) I found to believe that the construction company only had five fatalities in the fifteen month duration which employed 3500 laborers for more the seven million hours of labor. Considering that the building is over 1,400 feet tall that’s pretty dang impressive (see the link below). I’m not sure what happened between the 1930’s and 1971 but it appears that people either stopped caring about being careful or we bred caution right out of the gene pool. Now I’m relatively young and I don’t remember the start of the unions; I honestly don’t remember when OSHA first started but somewhere along the line people started believing that it is the responsibility of any company in the United States to protect employees from every possible scenario that either “might” or “could” happen while someone is at work. My first experience with OSHA left a lasting impression on me that still resonates in my mind, “We have to protect people from themselves”. I have seen people standing on top of forty foot tall fiberglass storage tanks (with a thin layer of ice from the previous night) with no fall protection and not give a thought about what might happen if just one of their boots happened to slip and send them to the concrete below. I have seen people do amazing things that most people would consider not smart. Heck, I’ve done more than a few things in my life that most people would consider downright stupid. But the whole time I was doing those things I realized in the back of my head that I was making the choice to do those things. I knew better and did them anyway. Training would not have helped me in my youthful arrogance. OK, back to the cycles. My latest experience with OSHA has been somewhat different. It was due to a complaint against our company. So we had an OSHA representative come in and do an audit, run some tests, and file a report. In my responses and in my work to correct the items that they felt were inadequate I have come to realize that it is not my responsibility to make sure no one gets hurt. It is my responsibility to provide a safe work place. It is my responsibility to makes sure that employees know the hazards in the workplace that they are working. It is my responsibility to make sure the employees have the protective equipment to perform the work in such a way that they do not get hurt. If an employee has been trained on a certain piece of equipment (and by trained I mean shown the proper way to use the machine, told and/or shown the hazards associated with the machine, told what the machine is for) and a freak accident happens, it’s not the fault of the company. Now it happened on the job so workers comp kicks in but if the employee is using the machine for something other than its intended use or not wearing the PPE (personal protective equipment) that is required the fault falls on the employee. The company is not always the bad guy. Sometimes, people simply need to follow the rules and a repeatable safety record will follow. So hopefully the trend will continue to push people into thinking through their actions before something happens. And hopefully word will spread soon that every employee has a responsibility to “be careful”.

Life images of the Empire State Building

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