Recently a friend e-mailed me a news item in the Washington Post about a man named Bob Whitmore. The article was a discussion of how Whitmore, an OSHA employee, has been on administrative leave for over a year while OSHA does nothing about it. I'm not going to discuss the specifics of the case (because I'm not familiar with it), instead it raises an interesting and often frustrating conundrum that we all have to deal with from time to time: not being able to defend the agency against criticism. I'm not talking about the appointed people sitting in front of Congress mealy mouthing platitudes, I'm talking about those of us who are career people getting caught in the political crossfire and having to shoulder the brunt of public anger.
I mentioned in a previous post why it takes so long for us to promulgate a new standard, but nobody from OSHA will ever say so publicly. Why? Because we work for the President and he gets to decide what direction our agency takes. That's the system, we are simply not an independent agency like the SEC. Is it frustrating sometimes? It sure is.
In Whitmore's case he filed a whistle blower complaint against the agency, which, I think rightfully, precludes OSHA from saying anything. It wouldn't be fair to publicly say Whitmore did this or said that when doing so could potentially bias a judge in the case who might read the article, and it is simply is not right for management to discuss personnel issues publicly. The problem is, from what I've heard from people who work with him, Whitmore is a bully, an ass, and a lunatic. But OSHA can't say that.
So how do we deal with this? We remember that ours is a just cause, that we are helping others, and that we will be here for a long time.