There have been a number of thoughtful and challenging comments on the future of safety and health posted in the past week. I want to acknowledge some of these and also to suggest more discussion about the principles that might help choose which potential actions to increase worker protection should get priority attention.
Donald Coit Smith raised legitimate concern about insurance funds being used to fund inspections rather when injured workers receive inadequate benefits to cover their lost wages after injuries. However, I cannot agree with his suggestion that penalty dollars be used to pay for inspectors. This arrangement is just too subject to real or perceived abuse. The pay for inspectors should in no way be dependent upon how many violations they find.
Thanks to Ilise Feitshans for bringing attention to the recent documentary, OSHA 35 Still Alive. Also for pointing out that there is an EPA model for “citizen suits” that could be used to support the argument for adding individual rights to sue under OSHA. Does anyone have information about the effectiveness, or lack therof, of these EPA citizen suits?
J. Hammond points out that only actions affecting an employer’s bottom line have real credibility and suggests increased penalties, increased insurance premiums, public exposure of poor corporate behavior, and a system of accountability for CEOS as ways to get at this. What information is out there about the impact of Sarbanes Oxley on corporate behavior?
Angela Blair notes the importance of reliable data systems to document the relationship between safety programs and exposure to hazards. She also suggests SBA loans as a possible way to make audit programs feasible for small employers. Several others have raised questions about how an audit or third party inspection program might be financed. This is an important matter that needs more attention.
- Freedom from workplace injury and illness: Every working man and woman is entitled to safe and healthful working conditions, as a matter of law and as a matter of national purpose. No worker at risk should be lost or forgotten.
- No double standards for workplace safety: Equal protection is a core American value and if jobs are especially dangerous, then workers must be especially protected.
- Workplace crimes causing injury and illness must be punished: Business owners and managers should be held personally accountable for willful violations that result in injury or illness.
- Safety from workplace injury is a sign of respect: Safe workplaces respect both human rights and labor rights. Hard work brings value to individuals, families and communities and putting workers in danger disrespects their contributions.