It’s long been a beef with safety and health pros that senior leaders, with the rare exception, just don’t get safety. Business bosses don’t study it in business school, and since safety is a cost center and not a profit generator, leadership spends little time studying safety issues. Health issues, with their more delayed consequences and debatable connection to worker lifestyle issues (smoking, obesity, alcohol and drug abuse) are even further off the executive radar screen.
In this case, it does much more than merely hurt. “This case” refers to last Thursday’s (October 24, 2013) rather extraordinary admission by OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels that hundreds of OSHA’s permissible exposures limits (PELs) are far out of date, basically useless, and in fact dangerous.
In a press tele-conference last week, OSHA chief Dr. David Michaels once again took the opportunity to promote the much-ballyhooed and controversial Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (I2P2). “Certainly, we encourage employers to adopt and embrace I2P2,” he said. “In the VPP (Voluntary Protection Program) thousand of companies have adopted the principles of I2P2. So we know it works."
Undoubtedly the fact that almost everyone is now in the PPE distribution business. W.W. Grainger has vastly expanded its safety services, training, checklists, white papers, hotlines, etc. Fastenal, at one time a strictly or almost strictly an industrial fastener company, now markets vending machines of all sizes with all varieties of PPE.
What is hazardous energy? According to OSHA, energy sources including electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal or other sources in machines and equipment can be hazardous to workers. During the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment, the unexpected startup or release of stored energy could cause injury to employees.
You would think if workers knew how little electricity it takes to kill someone, they would be more cautious around energized equipment and other electrical hazards. But among most electrical workers there exists the old “it can’t happen to me” attitude of complacency.
1. Paul O’Neill would be voted in as OSHA chief by safety pros in a heartbeat. Or they would like to clone him for every boardroom meeting on safety. He is an inspiration to professionals, with his straight talking passion for safety.