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.
Occupational safety regulation needs to emerge from the 19th century concept that employers have to right to privately injure employees, and instead use the sunshine of modern public transparency to spotlight employer’s risk based safety performance.
The current administration looks to Saul Alinsky’s “Twelve Rules for Radicals” for their guidance. OSHA has now stepped in this direction and away from safety principles. Their first foray was the Shaming Press Releases.
I prefer to be optimistic and humanistic, believing that the silent majority does care about the safety and health of others, and wants to do the right thing. Consider for example the large numbers of people reacting to tragedies from shootings in airports and educational settings to catastrophes from climate change.
This is the time of year when OSHA announces their top ten citations of the past fiscal year. There are few changes in this top- ten list year after year. Even though the list is of the complete standard’s name, it is usually only one or two sections of a standard that repeatedly makes this list.
In 2005 I completed a dissertation on the effectiveness of safety awards on reducing at-risk behaviors. Although not primarily directed at safety, I was surprised to learn that there is a goodly amount of literature on the subject; particularly within the behavioral sciences.
James Madison, fourth president of the United States, was instrumental in drafting the United States constitution. He warned against creating laws “so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood.”
There’s been a lot of fury and fuss about how the secret to improving workplace safety lies in increasing the value on which the corporate culture places on the safety of the workers. As individuals our values dictate how we spend our time, money, and efforts (If you want to know what is really important to you just take a careful look at where you spend your time and money), as we grow older and mature our values, if they serve us well, become deeply ingrained and difficult to change.