Good Friday morning,


Late in August OSHA boss Dr. David Michaels walked into the annual meeting of the Voluntary Protection Program Participants Association (VPPPA) with a message of tough love:

“Ensuring that VPP survives and grows presents a serious challenge for OSHA when faced with tight budgets, limited staff, and calls to cut programs and expenses in every government agency…

“this Administration is committed to putting more emphasis and more resources into enforcement and standard-setting. This change has not been without growing pains…

“We have been clear with our Regional staff that while we have eliminated the former annual quotas for new VPP members, we were committed to signing up and reapproving worthy companies.

“as predicted, in the FY 2011 budget OSHA was tasked with the extremely unpleasant task of identifying programs where funding could be eliminated. Our response, and I believe it was a good response, was to try to save VPP by eliminating federal funding and looking for alternative forms of non-governmental funding.

“In Congress and elsewhere, various program-funding options are being explored. For example, we have been exploring the introduction of user fees from VPP participants with House of Representatives staff.

“OSHA and the Department of Labor support the idea of funding VPP through participant fees. While many VPP participants worry that user fees may undermine the integrity of the program, we have reassuring evidence of successful user-fee programs in other agencies.


Said Dr. Michaels: “No one should make the mistake of thinking that private funding would mean that any company could buy its way into VPP recognition simply by paying a user fee. OSHA should remain the ultimate arbiter of whether a worksite earns and keeps its VPP status.


“But let me be very clear to you today. We value this program. We want it to continue. But it is very unlikely to continue under the current federal funding formula. The way things stand right now, we believe that the House Appropriations subcommittee is proposing to provide $3 million additional funding to OSHA's budget to fund VPP for FY11, but will be asking for a report on funding alternatives for FY12. The Senate, on the other hand, has cut all funding for the program without any mention of a fee-based system or any other funding sources.

“So, let me say this carefully. The bottom line is that if we are to succeed in saving this program, we -- OSHA and VPPPA together -- need to present a united front on this issue, because in this environment of austere government budgets a fractured fight over VPP risks losing the program entirely. None of us wants that. If OSHA and VPPPA can agree on a road forward, we increase our chances of keeping VPP alive so participants can continue to serve as models for successful worker protection.”


Human error authority Dr. James Reason hypothesizes that most accidents can be traced to one or more of four levels of failure: 1) Organizational influences, 2) unsafe supervision, 3) preconditions for unsafe acts, and the 4) unsafe acts themselves.

In this model, an organization's defences against failure are modelled as a series of barriers, with individual weaknesses in individual parts of the system, and are continually varying in size and position. The system as a whole produces failures when all individual barrier weaknesses align (the holes in swiss cheese), permitting "a trajectory of accident opportunity", so that a hazard passes through all of the holes in all of the defenses, leading to a failure.

And so it’s no surprise that BP this week reported: No single factor caused the Macondo well tragedy. Rather, a sequence of failures involving a number of different parties led to the explosion and fire which killed 11 people and caused widespread pollution in the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year.

According to BP, the accident arose from “a complex and interlinked series of mechanical failures, human judgments, engineering design, operational implementation and team interfaces.”

Can you say “Swiss cheese”?

Every man-made disaster studied in the past 100 years has resulted from such complexity. It’s not one operator error, not one management decision. It’s an interlinked series of failures…

BP’s outgoing chief executive Tony Hayward: “It is evident that a series of complex events, rather than a single mistake or failure, led to the tragedy.”

Based on its key findings, the investigation team has proposed a total of 25 recommendations designed to prevent a recurrence of such an accident. The recommendations are directed at strengthening assurance on blow-out preventers, well control, pressure-testing for well integrity, emergency systems, cement testing, rig audit and verification, and personnel competence.

The investigation report is available online at, together with an accompanying video.


Not the best of news coming from the nation’s workforce this past Labor Day, courtesy of a StrategyOne public opinion poll:

Nearly Two-Thirds of Working Americans Seriously Doubt They’ll Be Able to Ever Retire

Americans are mostly satisfied with their work

But many fear taking time off from their jobs

Feel disconnected from their companies

This from a survey of 1,043 Americans, including 613 who work either full-or part-time:

82% of employed Americans describe themselves as satisfied with their jobs and report they get satisfaction from their work (80%). About three out of four (72%) also said they enjoy where they work and look forward to coming to work every day.

Equally high percentages of workers said they feel respected by their bosses (83%) and feel their boss respects their work (82%). Co-workers also got high marks, with three out of four Americans (74%) saying their colleagues are among the best things about where they work.

Now for the rest of the story…

Nearly 2 in 3 (64%) believe that realistically they won’t ever be able to stop working and retire, and the uncertainty of the long-term picture may help explain the divide among American workers over whether they believe they labor at a job (52%) or in a long-term career (48%).

The current economic downturn has produced a situation where almost half (46%) of workers have had their wages or salaries reduced over the past couple of years, and a similar segment are concerned about losing their jobs (44%) or having their hours cut back (48%).

About four in 10 workers (37%) describe themselves as underemployed and say they are not working as many hours as they would like because there is not enough work available at their current jobs.

A similar percentage of workers (40%) say that their bosses expect them to work extra hours without raises or additional compensation.

One-third of American workers (35%) report not caring much about their company and say they are mainly there to get a paycheck, and 38% report not knowing what the main mission of their organization is, other than making money.

More than half (56%) say they would be interested in leaving their job if they could get the same compensation elsewhere.

Work Vs: Life The vast majority of the workforce (78%) describes themselves as working to live — compared to 22% who say work is their top priority in life – the so called ‘workaholics’ in our society.

Taking a day off: One-quarter of workers (26%) say they fear being fired if they take a day off, although nearly half strongly disagree with that suggestion.

Web surfing at work: While they may not be taking days off, many American workers admit to surfing the Web while at work: 40% for at least one hour a day and 28% for at least two hours a day. Social media is a big draw, with 29% saying they spend at least one hour of their day using such sites and checking on what other people are doing.

Communications with the boss: Almost 82% of workers say they communicate well with their bosses, but companies have some work to do. Almost half (44%) say their companies put corporate “values” on the wall that are mostly meaningless to them.

Company meetings: SHOCKING NEWS: Close to half (49%) agree with the following statement: “Most meetings that I go to at the company where I work are a waste of time.”

What’s shocking is less than half of workers think meetings are a waste of time.