Thursday, April 16, 2009

OSHA's Own S&H

I received a couple of comments on how we deal with our own safety and health. Here's the first comment:
"I agree. I think that we should step up to the plate and demonstrate to employers that we are leaders. Does any one know what our TCIR/MSDs/etc rates are for the field? NO?

We should do everything that is required of the employers that we enforce. I can already hear the naysayers.... don't kid yourselves. We aren't any better (on average) than many companies out there. We're not. Fact.

So, why don't we start focusing this strong enforcement effort on ourselves? Who's with me...????"
Are you nuts? All Federal Agency injury rates are posted (I did a quick Google search and found them). The incident rate for all private industry was 4.2 in 2007. The incident rate for all of the federal government was 4.2 in FY 08. The incident rate for OSHA in FY 08 was 2.1. Yes, one-half the private industry and government rates. In FY 08 we had a total of 19 injuries that had lost time, 19! I've been in places that had that many injuries every week. Our lost time rate was 0.91, for all government it was 1.74 and for private industry it was 2.1. Unfortunately there is no breakdown of the causes of injuries. By the way, we had no fatalities in FY08, in fact, the data goes back to 1998, and we haven't had a fatality in all of that time.

So when the commenter says "We aren't any better (on average) than many companies out there. We're not. Fact." The judges say "Bzztt. Sorry, wrong answer." We are, in fact, better than most companies out there.

The second commenter responded to the first comment with:
"As long as OASAM has jurisdiction over OSHA, forget any real enforcement. They won't do squat. Further DOL is a certified Federal agency with a Safety and Health Committee, meaning that OSHA has no jurisdiction over the agency unless the S&H committee requests an OSHA inspection. Even then, OASAM has no real power and the RA's that won't rat on each other.

Thanks to the NCFLL, they bargained away the regional S&H committees in the last contract negotiations, so in effect, there is only one group running all of the S&H for the entire DOL(the S&H national committee). They are so in the pocket of anything OSHA needs to do that they are useless.

NCFLL you blew it! You gave away safety. You made OSHA and the rest of DOL weak safety organizations. This is to include MSHA.

OSHA will talk about what a great job they are doing in several of the regions, but what real oversite do they have? Anything comperable to what private sector has? The answer is no, and when they claim to be VPP don't believe them. Who is really evaluating their VPP status?

Answer======Other OSHA folks.

Hmmm. Duh they make STAR status VPP."
First, read the Directive: Federal Agency Safety and Health Programs, specifically section H.4. We can, in fact, file a complaint against ourselves. Why anyone would do this is beyond me, but it can be done.

Yes, the agency has a responsibility to protect my safety and health. To that end, I have great equipment, and excellent training. What more can they do? Region 5 requires their CSHOs to hang sampling pumps on themselves whenever they sample employees. Maybe that could be a national policy. Automobile accidents are probably our biggest threat, and certainly that is something that should be addressed. But what more should OSHA do for me?

My question is, where does our responsibility to protect ourselves lie? We expect companies to train their workers in hazard recognition and the controls used to protect themselves, but aren't we already trained? If I inspect a site and review a training record that has my education/training/experience I can guarantee that I would consider that employee adequately trained for almost any job out there.

When it's said that OSHA requires an employer to do this or that, is it really some nebulous concept of the agency or is it the CSHO? The "Agency" isn't doing the inspection, I am. The "Agency" isn't writing the violations, I am. The "Agency" isn't testifying before the ALJ, I am. I tell employers all the time, through citations, what they have to do to protect their employees, how can I, as a CSHOs, not be expected to do the same thing to protect myself?

I have certainly put myself in situations that I shouldn't have been in, situations that my AD would have chewed my ass off for if he knew. But I knew when I did it that it was something I shouldn't be doing, it was a conscious decision. If a CSHO puts themselves in harms way without realizing it, I have to wonder how good their hazard recognition skills really are.


  1. A national OSHA Safety & Health Program is so needed. I have reviewed the regional programs and the Chicago plan is by far the best. “One card does not make a deck.” To the Agencies benefit, some safety & health has already been integrated into directives, but it is not the way to go. Also, OTI addresses CSHO safety in many of their courses. However, it is a start and needs uniformity in terms of policy and procedures.

    For example, how many folks know & follow the electrical best practices contained in NFPA 70E? Are all the CSHOs aware that the Construction Directorate incorporated 70E-2004 provisions as national policy (by interpretation letter)? Do CSHOs know these guidelines, including how to follow the arch flash boundary guidelines or that they need to wear FR clothing protective equipment when inside the flash boundary radius? Clearly, OSHA needs to improve with respect to its people being "qualified" to perform electrical inspection and testing activities?

    On a positive note, OSHA can utilize experienced staff to develop an overall safety & health program elements – that is, someone other than a Program Analyst or professional without any field experience. The Region 5 program is a start and the Agency should expend resources to accomplish this important endeavor on a national basis.

  2. Many clarifications are needed for the artile on safety and health. The one that most upsets me is that OSHA watches OSHA. If you are VPP Star or attempting such, you are audited by private industry (SGEs). That is correct. And let me tell you - they send the "top guns" to audit you. Safety and health is work both in government and private industry. If you want to be the best you must put forth the extra effort - just like the "outside"!

  3. "If a CSHO puts themselves in harms way without realizing it, I have to wonder how good their hazard recognition skills really are."

    I'm sitting in the office one day, bundling up samples. A fatality comes in that involves a crane. I know nothing of cranes. It's thrown at me. I do the inspection as I'm instructed by my supervisor. Climb all over the crane, the bridge, the trolley, checking for brakes, checking the wire ropes. Take my photos and measurements. Come back to the office.

    Since I'm not familiar with cranes, my supervisor tells me what violations to write. I then have enough time to do a little research myself. Seems like the crane should have been locked-out before I climbed all over it. And that means that I have poor 'hazard recognition skills?' Not all CSHOs know everything.

    I do electrical inspections; I don't know what this 'flash boundary' is. I've asked supervisors several times over the years if we can climb ladders and walk flat roofs. They don't know. And they never asked anyone higher. So I do climb the ladders and walk the roof to get my documentation. There's an exemption in the fall protection standards for 'inspections.' Is this agency policy? Or am I doing something wrong? I don't know.

    So don't leap to assumptions about the entire agency. Training and equipment vary significantly between Regions and even Area Offices. Each Area Director is quite unique in his or her interpretation of agency policy.

  4. OSHA does not watch OSHA in VPP. SGE's are used to evaluate other OSHA offices.

  5. OSHA's rate is 2.1 and we're proud of it? Maybe so, getting by those filing cabinets can be pretty treachorous. Yikes, and those paper cuts can get pretty bad too.

    I think someone is mixing apples and oranges. Not all agencies are alike with risks and hazards. Just like the private sector where manufacturing, construction have significantly higher rates than say restaurants or hair salons.

  6. When was the last time a CSHO got a hearing test as part of "standard operating procedure" so to speak for surveillance?????

  7. There are plenty of companies out there that protect their workers far better than the Agency protects us. How ironic --not to mention pathetic-- is that...?