Good Friday morning,
We start from the top, the very top, with President O’s speech this week to the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council.
JOBS, JOBS, JOBS… WHAT ABOUT SAFE JOBS?
He spoke for 30 minutes on his plans for moving forward to create jobs, acknowledging that “we’ve got millions of our fellow Americans…hardworking people who’ve been left to sit idle for months and even years as their lives have been turned upside down.”
New jobs. Rewarding jobs. Secure jobs. Safe jobs? POTUS said nothing about it.
O thanked the AFL-CIO for fighting for reforms and tax breaks to help the middle class.
Nothing about OSHA reforms and new policies. Even in the haunting shadow of tragic disasters this year, POTUS never mentioned the need for safe workplace, safe jobs, a strong OSHA.
This is as close he came: “I’ve appointed folks who actually are fulfilling their responsibilities to make sure our workplaces are safe, whether in a mine or in an office, a factory or anyplace else.”
Are we surprised at the President’s act of omission? Not at all. Presidents give speeches about OSHA and job safety about as often as they pass up fundraising dinners. Then again, in front of a union crowd, you’d think the President might have used the newly-energized OSHA to play to the audience.
OSHA HITS MIDDLE AGE
So what kind of mid-life crisis might the 40-year-old OSHA go through to prove its virility?
Issue record-setting penalties. Done that.
Make slack state OSHA programs show some spine. Doing that.
Write the most sweeping standard in the agency’s history, the “find hazards and fix hazards” injury and illness prevention program. Underway.
Crank up self-promotion with hard-hitting press release about enforcement cases to regulate by shame? Doing that.
Be bold and make a high-profile issue out of focusing on ergonomics enforcement cases? Doing that.
Reckless behavior is often part of the mid-life crisis package. So far, OSHA has been aggressive but not reckless. Stay tuned.
OSHA PROPOSES $16.6 MILLION IN FINES FOR FATAL CONNECTICUT NATURAL GAS EXPLOSION
OSHA this week cited three construction companies and 14 site contractors for 371 alleged workplace safety violations, and proposed $16.6 million dollars in penalties, following an investigation into the causes of February’s deadly natural gas explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems LLC power plant construction site in Middletown, Conn. The explosion took the lives of six workers and injured 50 others.
“The millions of dollars in fines levied pale in comparison to the value of the six lives lost and numerous other lives disrupted,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “However, the fines and penalties reflect the gravity and severity of the deadly conditions created by the companies managing the work at the site. No operation and no deadline is worth cutting common sense safety procedures. Workers should not sacrifice their lives for their livelihoods.”
“These employers blatantly disregarded well-known and accepted industry procedures and their own safety guidelines in conducting the gas blow operation in a manner that exposed workers to fire and explosion hazards,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels. “We see this time and time again across industries when companies deliberately ignore safety precautions in the interest of completing jobs quickly, and workers end up being killed or seriously hurt.”
“We see this time and again across industries…” seems like OSHA see a lot of bad guys out there.
PSYCHOSOCIAL RISKS CONCERN MOST EURO COMPANIES
Now here’s something you don’t read about in the U.S. often:
Four out of five European managers express their concerns about work-related stress, the “European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks” (ESENER) reveals, making stress at work as important as workplace accidents for companies (79%).
Editor’s note: Stress at work and workplace accidents are no where near on the same level of importance in the states.
Work-related stress is very acute in health and social work (91% of companies regard it as of some or major concern) and in education (84%).
“With the financial crisis in full swing, 79% of European managers voice their concern about stress at work, which is already recognised as an important burden on European productivity”, said EU-OSHA Director Jukka Takala at the conference in Barcelona. “But despite the high levels of concern, it is clearly worrying that only 26% of EU organisations have procedures in place to deal with stress.
Ed Note: Ah, now that sounds more American.
The survey shows that 42% of management representatives consider it more difficult to tackle psychosocial risks, compared with other safety and health issues. The sensitivity of the issue (53%) and lack of awareness (50%) are the main barriers for dealing effectively with psychosocial issues, according the findings.
Taking in the views of managers and workers’ representatives from across Europe, the survey provides key information on how European companies currently manage health and safety issues with a particular focus on the relatively new psychosocial risks, such as work-related stress, violence and bullying.
In U.S. culture bullying is something kids do, in the school bus or playground; it’s seldom associated with adult behavior at work.