OSHA Embracing a Journalistic Attitude

OSHA Embracing a Journalistic Attitude

From 2010’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program, now nearing 500 employers to a new tactic brought up to highlight unsafe employers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has made one thing clear—those employers who don’t protect workers will be made known.

The New Tactic: Editorials

This new tactic, highlighted in a recent article by SmithAmundsen contributor Matthew Horn, shows that OSHA has taken an editorial approach to citations, demonstrated in this news release.

“One minute he was working in the 8-foot trench below ground. The next, he was being buried in it. His co-workers came to his rescue, digging him out with their bare hands. Moments after they pulled the injured man to safety, the unprotected trench collapsed again. His injuries were serious and led to his hospitalization. The man’s Houston-area employer, Hassell Construction Co. Inc. knew the Richmond, Texas excavation site was dangerous, but failed to protect its workers.”

That’s right, OSHA now will send out press releases describing in extensive, explicit, personable detail the failures of an employer in protecting its workers.

Of course, the release also highlights the standard citation and fine details:

  • “…six egregious willful violations for failing to protect workers inside an excavation from a cave-in. The company faces penalties totaling $423,900.”
  • “…cited for nine serious violations, including failing to remove debris from the edge of the excavation. The company also did not provide a safe means to get in and out of the excavation for workers or conduct atmospheric testing inside excavations after a sewer leak.”

Impact on the Company

We live in a search engine driven world, and the following three things alone will directly mar the name of the company for years to come:

  • The press release directly mentions the company multiple times.
  • Multiple news sources—safety industry and local/regional/national news outlets—picked up the story, linking to the OSHA press release.
  • This appears on major search engines, as well as social media outlets (which in turn feed search engines).

In today’s search engine reliant world, the name Hassell Construction will forever be linked with this egregious failure to protect workers. Consider how this will affect the company for those who would be likely to search it:

  • Job Seekers: What job seeker isn’t looking up a company online? What job seeker, knowing this, would want to work for them?
  • Companies Hiring Construction Firms: What happens when a company looking to hire Hassell Construction searches to see what projects they’ve completed? They will see these reports and likely go with a company that has done more to protect workers (partially because of the lower risk involved—many have policies to only hire low EMR firms)
  • Insurers: The OSHA release explicitly mentioned the company’s insurer in the release as well. How likely will a company be able to secure insurance in the future?

Put Yourself in Those Shoes

Now, imagine that this is your company. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Would you be able to rebound?
    • …From Fines Levied?
    • …From Detriment to Your Name?
  • How much will it cost you in lost business?
  • How much more will you need to pay for insurance?
  • How much will it cost you to have a PR firm salvage your company name?

There’s a Way to Avoid the Shame Game: Protect Your Employees

OSHA has taken enforcement to the next level, to the digital age, and to the reputation of the company.

The simple fix? Protect your employees.

Develop a safety plan, commit to protecting your employees, and you won’t be the target of OSHA’s continued shame game.

Our vision is Workers Everywhere Valued and Safe, and we can help you develop a safety management system that will ultimately provide your organization the productivity, profitability, and engagement that you need to compete.

Learn more about Optimum Safety Management and our 30-point Safety Management System Analysis, as well as the work we can do to train, engage, and protect your employees.

Need immediate help? Call our Safety Helpline at 1-866-70-SAFE-T