Thought Leadership

When OSHA wins by losing – An alternative opinion

March 26, 2014
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ISHN Guest BlogAaron Trippler’s commentary on “When OSHA Wins By Losing” (ISHN OSHA Regulatory Alert—03-17-14) was interesting. However, I believe the winners when OSHA loses have not been appropriately identified. The real winners are:  1. S&H Excellence/Sustainability and 2. S&H Professionals.

Consider this. Compliance with OSHA is defined in the S&H professional lexicon as “Basic Safety.” Safety issues that OSHA regulates are, thus, Basic. OSHA has been enacting Basic Safety regulations for more than 40 years and has comprehensive array of them.

It is not that Basic is bad. It is “horizontal” in coverage—one size is supposed to fit all. Therefore, it is limited in application. It is, thus, not a productive avenue for seeking and achieving safety excellence and sustainability. Nor is it useful for S&H professionals to have to be predominantly focused on Basic or Compliance instead of application of our value added professional skills.

Mr. Trippler summarizes some high value outcomes for several safety and health elements where OSHA was unable to achieve regulation. If those elements had been regulated, they would be only Basic. I believe it is highly unlikely that these elements would have advanced to the excellence level that Mr. Trippler celebrates if OSHA had succeeded in regulating them.

So one clear winner when OSHA is not successful in adding more and more Basic S&H and its Compliance demands is S&H Excellence/S&H Sustainability.

These higher level attributes of safety outcomes are solely site specific.

They do take on a collective outcome as management teams, employees and S&H professionals communicate to others their successes in application of them. That is what we are seeing—site specific application, shared learning and, thus, collective improvement.  

Can you imagine, for example, the Ergonomics scene if that regulation had been allowed to stand? I doubt anyone would be celebrating anything for S &H. OSHA would be the only celebrants and that would be for the large number of citations and fines that can be generated.

To achieve professional value add, S & H staff professionals must influence and resource S &H Excellence and Sustainability at their individual work sites.

In fact, S&H Excellence/Sustainability is virtually impossible to accomplish absent an S&H staff. If OSHA is successful in placing more and more aspects of S&H under regulation, the professional practice value add options of S&H professionals beyond Basic become severely limited.  

In the worst case, if everything S&H is Basic or Compliance, what justification will employers have for having  more than nominal S&H professionals on staff? Or perhaps lawyers on their staff instead of S&H professionals would be of more value to our employers.

Millions of work sites under OSHA have no S&H staff. Compliance is the only doable safety objective for them.  But even at Basic, many of these sites struggle to get to even Basic without S &H staff. But they manage to do it. What does that reality say about the “Business of Safety”?

So the second winner when OSHA is unsuccessful in adding to the regulatory burden with more and more Compliance and Basic Safety are Safety and Health Professionals.



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