Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Two weeks ago the Pump Handle posted a short excerpt from the confirmation hearing for the new Solicitor of Labor, below is part of that testimony (which I have copy/pasted from the Pump Handle):
Senator Murray: “This committee has had a number of hearings about workplace accidents and the aftermath. One of the things that has become apparent is families of victims have very little say in OSHA and MSHA’s compliance decsions, and I wanted to ask you if you believe that OSHA and Regional Solicitors should consult more closely with the victims’ familes or injured workers when they are assessing penalties?”

SOL-nominee Smith: “Yes, I do believe they should consult more closely with the victim’s families. I also believe in the wage and hour [area], that victims—those underpaid workers—should be consulted when there are enforcement actions taken.”

“I believe in a much more open and inclusive process of investigation; not that the victims’ families or the victims themselves can dictate the decision, but I definitely believe that their wishes and perspective have to taken into consideration to make it more meaningful enforcement.”
I believe that we, as an agency, do a poor job of communicating with the families of those who have died at work, and I'll discuss that in a minute, but consulting on penalties or anything else? So much for justice being blind. We are supposed to be an unbiased evaluator of the workplace, allowing families to influence inspection results is no more right than allowing businesses to influence the results. How can anyone think we would remain unbiased while sitting next to a sobbing woman who just lost her husband? We can't, and we shouldn't be put into the position.

Having said that, once an investigation is complete and any citations have been issued, I think we should sit down with the family and discuss what we found, and by we I mean the Area Director. Celeste is right, the families deserve to know how and why, and a form letter just doesn't cut it.

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