Tuesday, April 6, 2010

OSHA Impact... Yes, Again.

People drive me crazy. They complicate things that don't need to be complicated and simplify things that can't be simplified. The graph I referred to in my last post was from an article by Charles C. Johnson at Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website. Hmmmm, imagine that, an anti-government website saying bad things about a government agency, I'm shocked. I'm also not going to get into politics, and I'll delete any comment that does, but I am going to talk about his graph and is contention that OSHA has no impact.

Johnson's article included a graph from the National Safety Council showing declining fatality rates in the US. He graciously included an arrow to point out 1970, when the OSH Act was signed. His contention is that the trend was already on the declining and therefore creating OSHA was unnecessary. What he utterly failed to do was to try to account for why the line was dropping, and by extension, what impact OSHA may or may not have on the decline since 1970.

Too many people seem to believe that there is a magic bullet that will cure everything that's wrong with the world (or workplace safety and health in this case). Those people need to come to grips with the fact that "there is one and only one true answer" is a ridiculous position (I'm not talking spiritually, this isn't intended to be a religious discussion).

Think about it, is there one perfect food? No, there is no food that tastes perfect every time, is health, is absorbed by the body in perfect proportion to our needs, and doesn't cost anything. Ambrosia doesn't exist (bacon is the closest thing I've found).

Applied to occupational safety and health, there is no panacea for the ills of the workplace. Does enforcement work? Yes it does, for some employers. Does compliance assistance work? Yes it does, for some employers. Has OSHA made an impact? Yes it has, for some employers.

What Johnson's graph doesn't show is everything else that has been done in the past 100 years to protect workers. Here are just a few of the things that have happened that have shaped where we are today:
  • 1908 - US government passes an employer's liability law that applies only to railroads, but leads to state workers compensation laws (44 states adopted laws between 1911 and 1921).
  • 1910 - US Bureau of Mines is established.
  • 1911 - Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire leads to the founding of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).
  • 1938 - Fair Labor Standards Act passed, which includes limitations on child labor.
What are not included on this list are things like the National Electrical Code, the Life Safety Code, and the Uniform Building Code being adopted by local jurisdictions throughout the decades. EPA's restrictions on the use of asbestos, carbon tetrachloride and PCBs, and their restrictions on emissions of most chemicals, have made an impact on workplace safety and health as well.

And lest we forget, there are the huge strides in medicine, both in terms of traumatic injuries, as well as illnesses.

What does all of this mean? It means that OSHA is one piece, one brick, one slice, one (you pick the cliche) of a greater whole. How do we measure the size of that piece? I don't know, I keep asking on this blog and so far no one has given me a good answer.


  1. The value of OSHA (or lack thereof) is easy to determine! Abolish OSHA and note the change(if any)of workplace fatality rates. You probably think the rates would climb. I propose that the current fatality rates will continue to fall in response to the recession rather than the absence of OSHA. Your sense of self worth appears to be entwined with proving the importance of OSHA. If OSHA was shown to be virtually worthless then your ego/self worth would be crushed.(And your whole life's work would be a waste of time). Therefore, you will defend OSHA to the end no matter the objective facts presented to you. i.e. in short, your bias is obvious! I on the other hand after several decades of working for OSHA have given it the benefit of the doubt and now I am unconvinced that our current inspection procedures that OSHA uses makes little more than a whit of a difference. (I don't have any ego issues here as OSHA was never the center of my life and couldn't care less whether my work in OSHA was important or not which sorta makes me unbiased) I suspect you have always believed in the glory of OSHA and the importance you place on it.(and always will)

  2. I may not work for OSHA but as a person who is tasked with keeping my co-workers safe, I value OSHA for giving me guidance on how to handle a multitude of issues and what best practices to employ.

    Even if you were involved in one less fatality or were a part of one person going home with all 10 fingers, you made a difference. Saying someone's life's work would be a waste is just plain ignorant and rude.

  3. Life is Rude! Grow up!

  4. "...and couldn't care less whether my work in OSHA was important or not which sorta makes me unbiased." No, it makes you deadwood, exactly the kind of person the unions need to stop protecting so we can find someone who actually wants to do a good job.

    I'm not convinced our inspection procedures are what they could or should be either, we still rely too much on numbers of inspections and not quality (as I've said before). But I know of specific instances where an employee is alive today because of those inspection procedures, so they do have some impact, I just don't know how much.

    Jason, you kind of point out the problem we have measuring our impact, counting inspections or violations is easy, but gives a poor snapshot of what we may (or may not) be accomplishing. What about the companies that do follow OSHA standards or use our guidelines/e-Tools/directives, how do we measure that?

    An in-compliance (IC) inspection means we didn't find a violation, and isn't that a good thing (assuming the CSHO isn't Deadwood who finds everything IC)? Yet we never measure it. Why?

    And Jason, don't worry about what Deadwood said, my self-esteem isn't wrapped up in their opinion.

    And finally, Life is not rude, assholes are rude.

  5. OSHA measures process by micro-managing compliance officers and inspection data and not results. Maybe OSHA is afraid to check results because of what they would find. Any private organization that does not focus on RESULTS ceases to exist. Government organizations live forever even with no results. I have operated several successful business ventures with employees by focusing on results(provide product or service and show a profit). OSHA as an organization is clueless. Signed, Deadwood.

  6. Deadwood, I have been asking for over a year how we should measure success (results) and so far no one has given me a viable suggestion.

    I am evidence based, if you want to convince me, show me. I have data showing OSHA's impact, reduced I/I rates, lower fatalities, number of inspections, results of follow-up inspections, and specific individuals who are alive today because of an OSHA inspection.

    What data have you, or any one else, provided that contradicts that? All I've heard are people like you claiming OSHA is a failure, but no one has provide evidence, not one shred.

    It's very reasonable for you and others to doubt the measures I mentioned, I have said several times that I think these are probably poor measures. But until someone gives me something else, we got what we got.

    So now I'm asking you directly, how do we measure results?

    I'm a big believer in the idea that if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. I'm trying to find solutions, are you?

  7. You start by hiring competent statisticians(but I am not sure that OSHA is competent enough to hire competent statisticians nor will they want to).(example: look at our computer software-the worse!) Those statisticians then must make projections on the future rates of injuries and illnesses.(I/I) Those projected rates must adjust for as many factors as possible to obtain an I/I projection rate that is as pure as possible. The adjustment factors are many such as the state of the economy and where it is going, the type of industries involved, the seasons while employees work, locations of work in USA i.e. population shifts along with seasonal shifts, weather trends, immigration factors, educational factors of workers, average age of workers in different fields, changes in technology for workers, past I/I trends for all fields etc, etc and etc. It is about as complicated as predicting the weather using meteorology science with computers which is equivalent to using advanced degrees in Physics. Not perfect by far, but better than nothing which is what OSHA does now. Then using the normalized pure unadjusted projection line of I/I, you can now overlay on that projection line the "OSHA Effect" with the passage of time and see if it improves the I/I rate, does nothing, or horror of horrors makes it worse!(That does happen with some Agencies, they actually make things worse). While you saved someone's life working for OSHA on a given day, somewhere else an employee may have died on that same day taking extra time to install guardrails that he would not have done if OSHA did not exist. You and I only see little pieces of the whole picture.
    I have the educational background to actually be a rocket scientist(have worked with NASA people) but I applied my talents other than OSHA because OSHA cannot handle creative or technical ideas. Abel, you have not offered any solutions so I guess you must be part of the problem too! None of this matters though, cause OSHA ain't gonna do it anyway. So that's why I am and they call me Deadwood. (somehow I love my nickname! Thanks)

  8. What I believe OSHA really comes down to, stats aside, is that an employer cannot expose their employees to an unreasonable level risk. If the employer does, the employee has the right to whistle-blow, thus the employee has legal backing to refuse to do work that may get them killed.

    This is completely worth the OSHA budget. This does keep employers from exposing employees to an unreasonable risk. I work in industry as a S&H professional, and I have the OSHA regs. to fall back on when all else fails. Trust me, this happens much more than people at OSHA can ever track, it will never be reported, and is not quantifiable.

    A majority of employers I worked for, WOULD be more dangerous to work for if OSHA did not exist.

  9. I have said to friends and associates for many years that "just the existence of OSHA" has accomplished far more than any inspection programs that OSHA has conducted.


  10. As much as anyone wants to admit, people are willing to take risks. Workers take risks to get jobs done quickly or easily. Companies take risks to save money. Without an enforcment presence, they will do so more quickly. OSHA and other entities set base rules that HSE people can point to and say, if you go past here, you are going to lose money if people get hurt. Incentive - in this case negative reinforcement.

    The problem is we need to change the culture to be take credit for positive reinforcement. Many companies are starting to do this to be "good corporate citizens". That is why I always wonder why OSHA and others want to continually paint the broad evil corporation color on everybody.

    Find a way to give credit where credit is due, and throw the book at the bad apples. Being appethetic is not a solution. Being strong handed in all cases is not the solution either.

    Come on OSHA, you keep telling us in industry that you are the best and brightest. Stop being reactive and propose some proactive solutions.

  11. I have had many proactive solutions. Submitted many of them to OSHA managers during government reinvention when Al Gore was running for President. I am firmly convinced that my proposals would have solved many of the problems that OSHA to this day still struggles with. My proposals were rejected WITHOUT ANY REASONS GIVEN by management because they could not find legitimate reasons for rejection other than ideology clashes. OSHA would not even do trial runs(I am convinced because OSHA was afraid that some of my proposals would have worked.) All rejected! Essentially I proposed incentive type systems and rewards for compliance officer work that would vastly increase the efficiency of obtaining workplace safety for workers using what was basically capitalism in a socialist organization. Believe me you are talking to a brick wall when any creativity is proposed in OSHA And that's why I am and they call me Deadwood.

  12. MemphisSafetyGuy12:50 PM, April 09, 2010

    What is up with all the fatalities in the coal mine this week??? You would think (more like common sense) that with the technology of today and the economics of coal that robotics would make more sense than human workers in the mine shafts???

  13. First, Deadwood, I'm sorry for giving you that name, but I'm glad you've accepted it with such humor. I'm trying to not let this blog be angry, I learned last year how quickly that gets out of control.

    Second, I like your idea, and the fact that you actually gave a viable suggestion makes you my hero. The one thing I would change is that I don't think OSHA should do it, for two reasons. First, OSHA is not supposed to do actual research, that's reserved for NIOSH. Second, if OSHA did the research I could guarantee that the only result that would ever be published would be that OSHA does have an impact, and no one would believe it.

    I would disagree with you about OSHA not being able to handle creative or technical ideas, it's just that we do it in an unusual way. Most companies, and even other federal agencies, continually innovate and update technology. We tend to do ours in big chunks once every 10-15 years.

    You mentioned our IMIS system, and it is an ancient beast, but it was cutting edge 25 years ago when it was deployed. At that time the World Wide WAIS hadn't even been implemented, yet we had connected nearly 100 offices in all 50 states to one computer.

    We were also way out front in terms of an internet site and putting PCs on CSHO's desks (some offices as early as 1990, way before they were prevalent in business).

    Reinvention was a big change in the way we worked and conducted inspections (for good or bad).

    It's not that we can't or won't, it's that we don't do it continuously (the previous administration also discouraged it).

  14. Commoner, thanks, it's nice to hear something positive once in awhile.

    Anon, I think the reason "OSHA and others want to continually paint the broad evil corporation color on everybody," is because that's who we deal with day-in and day-out. Except for VPP and SHARP, we don't see the good guys much, there's no reason for us to go to their sites. And even with VPP, most of us rarely get to deal directly with those companies.

    When you spend your life constantly shoveling manure, the world starts to look and smell pretty shitty. There are too many Tesoro's and Massey Energy's our there.

    I agree with trying to change the culture to one of positive reinforcement, but as any psychologist will tell you, the carrot without the stick loses meaning.

    We actually do give credit to companies, VPP being the standard, but nobody notices because good news is not news.

    I think there are also a lot of CSHOs who use those good companies as a "Look, this is what you could be," kind of example. I've also seen partnerships where the company partner is used to give presentations to groups to show others what can be done. Again, those things never get any coverage.

    I can also guarantee you that we are not strong handed in all cases, the 'average' inspection has something like 2-3 violations and a penalty (before the informal conference) of <$3,000.

    We also use what we call a phone/fax inspection, where we don't go on site and don't issue any citations. That's not strong handed. But again, you never see those kinds of things.

    As for being proactive instead of reactive, as a S&H professional I absolutely agree, but it's kind of hard since the OSH Act intended us to be reactive.

    How do you become proactive when our two primary duties are to inspect companies for compliance and to write standards? I would argue that setting a standard is proactive, but we all know how often we do (or don't do) that. And clearly inspections are reactive. So within those limits, how do we become proactive?

    I would argue that we have done a few proactive things, the CASs are all about outreach, and some area offices are working with local advocacy groups to reach susceptible employee populations, and we provide 90% of the funds for each Consultation Program. Is it a lot? Not really. Is it enough? I don't think so. Can we do more? Not much, our statutory responsibilities take up most of our resources.

    So give me some ideas on how to be more proactive.

    And finally, I don't think anyone has claimed that OSHA was made up of the best and brightest [although I am, of course :-)], just that we were dedicated (which, mostly, we are).

  15. MSG, sorry, I don't know much about mining. What I know about that explosions and Massey Energy is what ever I read in the press.

  16. This Administration (Solis, Michaels, Barab) care between very little to absolutely zero about making workplaces safer. All they care about is making easier for unions to do membership drives at non-union workplaces. Zero else.

  17. Anonymous, I think you are misinformed about the Administration. All of the named officials are concerned with workplace safety. Maybe a better criticism would be placed on their effectiveness or approach.

    How do you stack this administration(Solis, Michaels, and Barab) up against Chao and Foulke with regards to caring about workplace safety?

  18. Hi I couldn't find OSHA Underground blog anymore. Did they go away?

  19. Yes, read the Nov 10 entry: http://oshaaboveground.blogspot.com/2009/11/things-have-gotten-interesting.html

  20. The captain of the ship says she is sorry that 29 miners died under her watch.

  21. Evil industry... yup... amazing that Government agencies are normally exempted from inspections. You want to find the most violations around? Ever see a city building inspector wear safety glasses? Look at any USPS sorting facility. Stop by the local fire department in XX county. Look at the sawdust piled up in the ladder shop. Look at the missing guards. Ever see an OSHA inspector? Ever see an air quality inspector? Look at the public safety fighting the ANSI Vest. Why do paramedics need to wear black when working auto accident sites. And the City inspectors and Fire inspectors in NYC do their job so well that 2 firemen lost their lives in the Deutch Bank fire. But at least their pensions were not affected after the wrist slap. We need to hire more inspectors.. give them higher salaries and they will do a better job...
    So who watches the watchers?

  22. a perfect example of government trying to avoid enforcement on thier own is when states mandate crane operator certification (see C-Dac, long overdue regulation) the first entities asking to "derate" their cranes below applicable limits is the local municipalities who have equipment operators running cranes.

  23. Field inspectors conducted 59 inspections of high hazard federal worksites and found 336 violations of OSHA safety and health standards. The top three standards cited were electrical, respiratory protection and hazard communications. The 336 violations cited were more than twice the number cited in 2008, indicating the necessity for the FEDTARG program

  24. USPS is covered by OSHA you clueless idgit.

  25. The fact that something is covered by OSHA does not mean it is enforeced. A local fire captain racked up $26,000 in unpaid toll fees until a reporter noticed. Yea, that Idget pointed out how they cracked down on the NYC after the accidents... A govt. offical screws up it is an isolated incident. A private business does it they are only out for the $$, I saw the last USPS inspection report in OC. it was written on a yellow legal pad... no fine, just a bunch of suggestions.

  26. First, the USPS came under OSHA jurisdiction under the Postal Employees Safety Enhancement Act of 1998.

    Second, it's not really fair to criticize OSHA for lack of coverage on government employees. Congress wrote the statute to exclude the government from the definition of an "employer."

  27. *sigh* Just had to delete yet another anti-government comment.

    Is it really that hard to understand that this isn't the place for it?

  28. So far this year (calendar year) there have been 64 inspection of the USPS, resulting in 35 violations. 44 of those inspections are still open so we don't know what the final violation count will be yet.

    OSHA does not cover city building inspectors (state-plan-state do, the Feds don't), or crane inspectors or most fire departments, most EMS, in other words, we don't cover state/local government (yet). OSHA does cover all federal agencies except DOE (mostly, it's complicated) and the military (it does cover civilian DOD employees).

    RT, OSHA covered the USPS before 1998, but until that time they were treated like any other federal agency and the proposed penalty wasn't collected. Now it is.

  29. Listen clueless, OSHA is dealing w ergo and arc flash in several USPS places right now.

  30. This blog is clueless and is only opinion. i.e. a cheering section for OSHA without any supporting information other than personal and anecdotal stories supporting OSHA. All other opinions need not apply.

  31. You really don't get the internet do you? Of course this blog is opinion, THAT'S WHAT BLOGS ARE!!!

    If it is just a cheering section for OSHA and you disapprove, then why do you read it?

  32. Interesting post on the CalOSHA reporter site
    Big Government? Big Injuries
    Federal statistics show that state and government workers suffer "days away" injuries and illnesses at higher rates than their private-industry counterparts. Here are the details.

  33. Keep your friends close and your clueless enemies closer!

  34. The graph, regardless of whether it actually means OSHA has had no affect on workplace fatalities, at the very least opens up the question to whether or not OSHA is as useful as once thought.

  35. OSHA as originally conceived and implemented is a union invention. Unions supported strongly the OSHA Act passed by U.S. Congress in 1970. OSHA operates based on the union concepts of essentially busting the chops of the assumed always evil/bad employers.

  36. The OSHAct was signed into law by President Richard Nixon with much conservative support. Its stated purpose was to protect worker safety and health; other reasons it was passed with bi-partisan support included an attempt to reduce worker's compensation claims and an effort to standardize workplace safety and health laws among fifty different states.

  37. If there were no unions there would be no OSHA Act.

  38. Ifthere were no bad employers there would be no OSHA Act.

  39. If there was no OSHA there would be no bad OSHA policies!

  40. Has anyone else other than myself notice something odd about the zealots saying that EPA law is stronger on penalties and enforcement in comparison to OSHA and 'we' need to make reform the OSH Act to be as strong as EPA?

    I mean all that stuff about $billion EPA fines vs $thousands or million for OSHA.

    Ummmm.... IF 'strong enforcement' will fix all the ills of bad actors, don't you think they would be complying with the EPA rules too?


  41. Yeah, I can't wait for each OSHA violation to have a penalty of one million dollars or more! That will whip those bad actor employers in line for sure!

  42. But the high EPA fines DO work. Really, how often do you hear about big EPA fines any more? Not often, because the combination of high penalties and criminal prosecution keep most companies from egregiously violating EPA regulations.

    You may be to young to remember the Cuyahoga River catching fire in 1969 because of all the solvents dumped into it. How about Love Canal? W. R. Grace?

    The reason chemical plants and refineries have flares is because EPA requires them so when there is an upset the product doesn't end up in the environment. It's nice for safety, but it's the environmental concerns that drove it.

    EPA has more teeth than we do, they can ban the use of chemicals, they can require specific safety systems, and they have stronger penalties. They are more effective.

  43. MSHA upped their penalties in 2007 by modifying their Act in almost exactly the way OSHA wants to up their penalties now. It did not work for 29 miners! 25% of their citations(violations) are contested(appealed) and everything in mired in a backed up court system. The court system is overloaded. Visions of OSHA's future without getting any improvement in compliance.

  44. MSHA upped their fines in 2007 by changing their Act exactly the way OSHA wants to up their penalties now. It did not work for 29 miners. MSHA currently has 25% of their violations appealed and the court system is backed up because it cannot handle the heavy caseload. This provides visions of OSHA's future.

  45. OSHA in a few months is going to increase the average serious violation penalty from $1,000 to about $3,000 to $4,000 using adminstrative measures. The average employer has about 15 employees and an average inspection has about 3 violations. That would be a total penalty of about $9,000 to $12,000 following an inspection of that average small company. Does anyone see a problem here? On top of that, the penalties are being increased when the economy and unemployment is flat on its back. Greater compliance with OSHA regulations is only a hope as stated in an OSHA press release. Employers will be forced to contest or just allow the penalties to go into debt collection. And this how OSHA is going to do a better job? You have to suspend all common sense to believe that?

  46. The Administration (Solis, Michaels, etc) does not care!!!! Why? They won't be here after January 20, 2013 to live through the mess they created.

    Besides, with all the other messes going on with Hill's wacky agenda, I would be suprised if PAWA gets anywhere before August 1. If summer recess hits and it hasn't become law.... it won't! Game over.

    By the way, if they do bump the avg penalties to $3-4,000 each ($9-12,000 per typical inspection) you can wave bye-bye to jobs! They can't afford to fight to them effectively, can't afford to pay the fines... so.... close up shop and open under a new name with debts/etc wiped clean. There's your small business bailout plan, I guess.

  47. Boo Hoo. Am I the only one who is sick to death of people running around crying "the sky is falling, the sky is falling?"

    When the agency was created business ran around screaming that the government was going to end the free market and there would be no jobs. Guess what? Business has some smart people, they adapted, and we have more jobs now than we did then.

    When the HAZCOM standard came out business ran around screaming that the government was going to end the free market and there would be no jobs. Guess what? Business has some smart people, they adapted, and we have more jobs now than we did then.

    When the Bloodborne Pathogens standard came out health care ran around screaming that the government was going to end the free market and there would be no jobs. Guess what? Business has some smart people, they adapted, and we have more jobs now than we did then.

    When EPA was created business ran around screaming that the government was going to end the free market and there would be no jobs. Guess what? Business has some smart people, they adapted, and we have more jobs now than we did then.

    Besides, if an employer is willing to risk life and limb of their employees, they shouldn't be in business anyway.

  48. when they raised the penalties from $1000 to $7000, business whined that it was the end of the world. The boy who cried wolf gets old. Saving lives. Priceless.

  49. Right, business adapted in europe to high taxes and high regulation like OSHA wants to do now with no proof of better results. The EU is sorta collapsing now starting with Greece. Do you know what the adaptation of smart businessmen was? It was a booming underground economy because business could no longer operate and pay the high taxes(or OSHA penalties here) to the governments. The governments not collecting their high taxes as a result and their created poor economies have and are going broke and they have had 10% or more unemployment for years(Does 10% unemployment and a lousy economy sound familiar?-like here now). So, yes the sky is falling financially but it is in slow motion and only the end stages speed up at an alarming rate. If there are not radical changes, any accountant worth his salt will tell you the end result. OSHA will effectively become meaningless and ineffective and really ignored because the high penalties will become a joke since no one can afford them. Keep laughing!!!

  50. Abel,
    I'd like to backtrack some 49 comments back to the question you posed in your 1st post: "How do we measure the size of this piece?"


    We measure with numbers. There is nothing complicated about it. You collect data (more is better) and you compare it to other data. Then you look for trends and correlations within those comparisons. It's called analysis. The article you referenced was pretty lazy, but I can't say the stats that OSHA releases are much more analytically advanced. Both are very "crude" to put it nicely.

    If OSHA states "xxx lives were saved last year" it means nothing. It is incomplete information (to some) unless it is put in a more compete context. ...Maybe a few of us might be interested in the economics impacts or ramifications. $1 is a bargain $1billion dollars may not be such a good deal. The platform of "saving lives" shouldn't negate intelligent, critical analysis of effectiveness.

    The real question is not IF OSHA has ANY impact on workplace safety. The question should be IS IT WORTH IT and the only way to figure that out is hardcore auditing.

    Here's a simple equation for you. The amount of money being spent on safety is increasing and injuries and death in the workplace are decreasing on an average. However, the closer the death and injury numbers get to zero the more expensive they are going to be. Count on that. There is a sense of diminishing returns with any margin.

    For a billion dollars we could put each employee in separate padded rooms and straight jackets...but you don't have to be a statistics expert or economists to figure how stupid, inefficient, unproductive, etc that would be.

    The problem is that OSHA is not even willing to admit that their actions have effects. The "ends" of "saving lives" has blinded them with self-righteousness enough to justify any "means". Well guess what? Not everyone is so simple minded to accept that 1 dimensional justification.

    I will be more hopeful when I hear a single OSHA representative admit that saving every life is an impossible mission...an exercise in futility.
    Until that confession of sanity is made I have no hope that anyone in OSHA will be willing to look at their mission objectively and put it in any sort of meaningful, scientific, statistical, mathematical, or economical perspective.

    Does OSHA have an impact on OS&H? Duh, yes.
    I could too if I had their power and resources at my disposal.
    Is OSHA efficient?
    ?? No one knows because everyone is scared of the answer.

  51. One more comment. The EPA fines vs OSHA fines comparisons are stupid..literally.
    EPA regulations are about a million times less subjective than OSHA regulations.
    Apples to Oranges.
    If you don't understand pose questions not comments.
    EPA regulations are about as black and white as it gets with well defined limits, amounts, etc. Not that there aren't shades of grey and not that bureaucrats aren't currently working to make EPA regs as hard to follow as possible but for now it is just a bad comparison to OSHA.

    It shouldn't have to be that philosophical of a debate anyways. A fine should be the same no matter who or were you are. If OSHA doesn't know by know how much an appropriate fine for infraction "X" is based the the 100's or thousands of citations for infraction "X" and their varied results then they have not a single analytical bone in their body.

    I run out of mental RAM trying to figure out the method to their subjectivity. It's exhausting.

    Let's try to at least equal our emotions with our brains.

    Million Dollar EPA fines work so Million Dollar OSHA fines will work?

  52. Previous post by Mr. Anderson is an excellent treatise on the stupidity of OSHA management. I am a representative of OSHA for over 30 years and I know that the only sure fire way to stop injury and death in the workplace is to fire everybody and that would be the ultimate expense. I am surrounded by boneheads that are like mind numb robots that think more violations and bigger penalties are the only solution to everything. They are so clueless that they don't even know they are clueless. Most of the time I just keep my mouth shut because they(especially OSHA management) aren't listening and they just spout continuous drivel like brain washed brown shirts and they will never get it. A truly scientific approach to problem solving can be applied to make the most efficient use of OSHA's resources to obtain the maximum practical reduction of death and injury in the workplace.(obviously, death and injury can never be zero) OSHA has a noble mission but their politically driven misguided efforts are a travesty. I've made a 7 figure estate from outside investments using the way I think and problem solve and will enjoy a bountiful retirement while I sadly watch OSHA bounce around aimlessly with faulty operating assumptions and do a great injustice to the workers of America from virtually totally incompetent management.

  53. The real loss is that OSHA, with their resources, could have a positive economic impact based on idea of a healthy, present workforce being more productive in the global market. Unfortunately, there is more focus on policing, chasing media attention of statistical freak accidents, and stroking the ego of the "politique du jour" than their is on strengthening the body as a whole.

    It doesn't take brilliance to see that our country has progressed from the ages of child laborers with black lungs. All it takes is hind-sight and that is not a sign of intelligence. What matters most is here, now, and in the future.

    However, OSHA actions seem driven by things like pride and justifying the past...and are counter-intuitive.
    For example:
    The concept of increased fines in hard economic times is a sign that logic need not apply. There is no intelligent argument that justifies that impact. Only, emotions and horror stories of worst case scenarios.

    I hate to insult the host but I don't even get Abel's sense of pride in the post of origin. I understand the correlation of the anti-government blog and the article, I get the concept of OSHA only being one piece of the pie, but it epitomizes the lack of objective, self-reflective value present within OSHA. You don't get to piggy-back on cherry-picked government success stories and opportunistically avoid some of the most abusive unintelligent failures in policy history like attempting to enforce ergonomics in the private dwellings of "employees" working from home.

    OSHA needs to first compartmentalize to gain perspective. You may not want to talk about politics here but it is ingrained in the subject at hand. I agree with you, Abel. I wish they would go away. Maybe then the numbers would have as much to say as the talking heads currently do.

    "14 American workers die on the job every day"...so give us more power.

    argumentum ad populum -- This logical fallacy occurs when an argument panders to popular passion or sentiment.
    The legitimacy of a statement depends not on its popularity, but on its truth credentials.

  54. For the record: I know how to compliment as well as criticize.

    Here is an example of OSHA being productive, preventative, and inclusive.


  55. The great reshuffle starts in July. 5 ses will go in next 18 months.
    Such is the word.
    Your Humble servant Luke.

  56. A slightly less convenient cherry picking of labor history:
    Forgotten Facts of American Labor History
    "Labor historians and activists would doubtless be at a loss to explain why, at a time when unionism was numerically negligible (a whopping three percent of the American labor force was unionized by 1900) and federal regulation all but nonexistent, real wages in manufacturing climbed an incredible 50 percent in the United States from 1860--1890, and another 37 percent from 1890 to 1914, or why American workers were so much better off than their much more heavily unionized counterparts in Europe. Most of them seem to cope with these inconvenient facts by neglecting to mention them at all."

    Tis the season (well I'm off by about a week)Workers Memorial Day was started by Canadians, by the way.
    A little reading for you readers.

    Worker's Memorial Day

  57. Just curious... Abel, do you have a response? Or would you like these facts to go "unabated"???

  58. I must say, Mr. Anderson has made an excellent point(s). The numbers are out there. the point can be made. in this article at http://www.khlaw.com/showpublication.aspx?Show=3285 you will read: "OSHA has encouraged the submission of comments from every industry it identified as having at least one documented combustible dust incident since 1980. We recognize the basic and frequently stated principle that one death is one death too many. However, every incident does not cause harm to people (as opposed to property). Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court has made clear what politicians often decline to say: The OSH Act was not adopted to reduce workplace risk to zero, just as we have not reduced the risk to zero in any other aspect of our lives. We have not yet heard any discussion of the 1/1000 "significant risk level" although there are real world data for this type of hazard that, unlike many health hazards, do not require modeling and extrapolation from animal studies. The occurrence of one combustible dust incident in an entire industry of any significant size in a period of 30 years, even if it does result in human injury, does not appear to present the type of significant risk the OSH Act was designed to eliminate." What you fail to mention Abel, is that graph shows NO drastic drop in spite of the many regulations you cited in your post. the drop is steady. no trend was started due to OSHA or any other regulation, standard, or law that has been passed over the past 100 years. So, to debunk your statement that all of those "have made an impact on workplace safety and health", the NUMBERS simply don't support that. the decline simply continues as time goes on. OSHA is inefficient and largely ineffective. Imposing billions of dollars in costs to virtually every industry to protect employees from risks that share the same likelihood and probability as being struck by lightning are grossly wasteful, poorly advised, and fatal to U.S. industry as a whole. In OSHA's attempt to save every working man and woman's life, they are effectively putting every working man and woman, out of work.

    To answer the question that you posed at the end of your post, abel, the slice of the pie that belongs to OSHA is minute to none. The numbers do not lie. lets say (for arguments sake) that the laws and regs you cited were at work and were the cause of the steady decline in worker deaths. Then where does that leave OSHA if the trend was already started decades before OSHA's inception? Out of a job.
    Again, thank you Mr. Anderson for posting factual data. It is not often that bloggers leave out opinion and use objective analysis. Something our host seems to lack as well.

  59. Mr. Anderson has factually presented what I have intuitively learned working many years inside the beast, that OSHA is mostly a political enterprise and nothing more. Gave me a job; but all else is mostly fantasy which is why I have no ego involvement in OSHA. Unlike most OSHA workers who will defend OSHA to the death no matter the facts.

  60. Impressive, 59 comments!

    As a safety and health professional, I have to say that without OSHA's existence, there would be more injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Many times, citing OSHA is the last resort we OSH professionals have in mitigating serious hazards in the workplace.

    Very frequently, despite data demonstrating the level of risk, significant hazards are not abated until management is also explicitly told "it is against the law." Again, this is primary benefit of OSHA in my eyes. Without OSHA, the efforts to minimize significant risks in the workplace would fall on deaf ears.

    How often would seatbelts be used without the threat of enforcement? Much less for sure. This law saves many lives. I see OSHA in the same way.

    How many people do you believe the Hazcom standard, electrical safety standard, and construction safety standards save each year? One cannot say, because it is nearly impossible to prove a non-occurrence. There are far to many intervening factors, such as education and regional cultures to determine the effectiveness of OSHA without missing important information.

    How many times would these basic safety rules be broken without a watchdog out there educating, raising awareness of the issues, and enforcing the standards? These rules would be followed much less often resulting in a much higher overall risk. OSHA, priceless. Yes, there are some crusty government people there, but there are also a lot of great professionals providing service to our country and all who have the privilege to work here.

  61. OSHA is not priceless you fool.
    Or did I miss their transition to pro bono work?
    That's the same explicit flaw in Abel's first post on this thread.
    In the real world things cost money.
    You don't get to pay the power bill by simply telling the power company that your mission is righteous and therefore the economics are irrelevant.
    You must not be writing from the real world.
    You must be a non-producer of business.
    Please quit injecting OSHA ideology into private sector OS&H. They don't need you to regurgitate their unrealistic economic views. They have plenty of "resources" (that didn't come from a money tree) to do that themselves.
    You make the same inane argument that "one can not say" how many lives are saved. Well I have good news for you! THERE'S MORE THAN ENOUGH DATA TO DRAW REAL CONCLUSIONS. You don't have to go on hiding beneath a shroud of ignorance any longer.
    Good thing we have a watchdog with a big stick. People don't know how to progress on their own. Before OSHA people just walked around poking each others' eyes out. If it weren't for someone looking over my shoulder I would probably light my chair on fire and sit in it to stay warm?

    Ehscommoner, if safety is that virtuous than why don't we fine companies even more? If it is priceless than why do we even attempt to define it monetarily in the first place? Why don't we just close the doors?

    Try nebulous.

  62. Jesse:
    Not making good decisions with regards to safety also costs money and lives (much more important). See BP, Imperial Sugar, Kleen Energy, Massey, Exxon, Tesoro for some examples. All of these companies have dealt with major preventable incidents.

    If you have ever been in the real world and dealt with people killed and seriously injured, then you know that there is virtue in safety. That is the world that I come from.

    What would be the alternative to a safety and health regulatory agency?

  63. I bet Greece has a great S & H program.(as in(was) a great job for the government workers; not for the private sector). I mean safety is priceless isn't it? But, then Greece just ran out of money while providing too many free lunchs. Oh, well!

  64. "What would be the alternative to a safety and health regulatory agency?". To quote from the movie "Braveheart", the answer is "FREEDOM". Obviously, you believe the government has a lock on all the answers.

  65. Same thing the Financial Industry said. Freedom to take as much risk as makes me a lot of money in the short term, no matter the potential consequences. This line of thinking almost collapsed our financial system, and would certainly result in failure in safety systems at the places that don't understand responsibility.
    (...and I told myself, never ever get into an online discussion, it is pointless and a bottomless pit, my butt is growing, I have three pimples and greasy hair now.)

  66. I didn't bad decisions doesn't cost money. My point was that none of it is "priceless"; good or bad...period. Real discussion deserves realistic perspectives.

    Toasters kill people each year but as a society we don't ban them. As long as the number of deaths attributed to them are within the tolerances of the analysis they will keep selling them and people will keep electrocuting themselves with them. Guess how many deaths from toasters in 2007? ...791.

    General perceptions of danger are skewed by most and you seem to be no exception to the rule.

    As I've said, I am not preaching the dismantling of OSHA (although nothing is out of the question). However, I would appreciate if they came back to earth, went back to the essence of why they were created, quit playing politics, and start using some thoughtful analysis in justification of their motives and actions.

    Oh, and give up the pretentious notion that safety reigns supreme. Without industriousness there would be no safety budget. We are only as good as our resources.

    Finally, to answer your question about alternatives to regulatory bodies I would answer the judicial system. Person dies, Family sues, Business thinks twice and changes ways. More effective than regulatory bodies in a million examples.

    Spend a million dollars to save a single life see a thousand people lose a job and you will see there's virtue in sacrifice. Or maybe we'll all just live forever?

  67. ehscommoner:
    How much money would you pay to ensure there would never be a chance you would get struck by lightning, keeping in mind that the chance of being struck is 280,000 to 1? Not very much right? because it would be a waste of money right? because the odds of it happening are slim to none right? I know i'm "leading the witness" here but come on! Use your head. There are real numbers out there! Take ALL of the deaths that have been suffered in the labor force over the past 50 years, 30 years, 10 years, whatever. How ever far you'd like to go back. Divide that by the total labor force. Answer: LESS THAN ONE PERCENT. the chances of the events OSHA is trying to mitigate are also less than one percent. so can you justify absorbing millions of dollars in cost towards mitigating a risk that probably will never happen? You'll probably answer with a question "can you put a price on a life?". The answer is YES you can! if it costs too much to abide by OSHA's mindless and nebulous regulations (thank you Jesse) and stay in business, you have your price.

    The alternative to a S & H agency is simple. The human spirit. No one wants to be responsible for a death or serious injury. I don't care how greedy you are. (yes there are some that don't care but again, we are talking about less than one percent of the population). You don't have to tell people twice that fire burns, and knives cut. It's a natural instinct to implement safety precautions. some of them are simple like "DO NOT TOUCH" and others are like machine guarding. A government agency is not needed to make sure that we are helping keep each other alive at work. It makes no business sense whatsoever to not care about your employees. it's far too expensive to carry that mindset. insurance, workers comp., unemployment insurance, etc. those are just facts.

    please stop being ignorant and narrow. you're only propagating stupidity and furthering mindless behavior and the "they'll take care of that FOR me" mindset.

  68. Tim and Jesse:

    Have you every watched the Mastercard commercial? "priceless" is a joke, obviously it touched a nerve. Maybe I should have said "precious in my bleeding liberal heart."

    Refer back to my comment on the financial industry as far as government regulations go. You may act with the best of intentions, however many people do not and that is why there is the rule of law. It is illegal to drink and drive, it is illegal to expose employees to toxins, It is illegal to sell drugs, it is illegal to expose employees to recognized hazard.

    Would you rather just go to court because because someone drinking and driving (many peoples' spirits lead them to this,) or would you rather the police enforced this law? Same thing goes for occupational safety hazards, would you rather go to court because your loved one got killed in a completely preventable (not an act of god) incident, or would you rather there was someone enforcing the rule?

    (five more pimples, gained 20lbs and have a funny urge to play some world of warcraft)

  69. Hey, let's make everything illegal, then everything will be perfect or... illegal. Wait, I'm confused!

  70. The point is, the rule of law applies to the workplace. Without the rule of law, society would be back to the stone age. You misconstrue the argument, and it may sound good to some. However, one should not be allowed to create and expose others to an unacceptable risk. We as a society determine the acceptable level of risk. There is a rule making process that goes through congress, I suggest you start there if you have disagreements with the current OSH laws.

    It is not impossible or even cost prohibitive to follow the OSHA regulations. In fact, my employer was able to earn a 27% profit margin last month doing so.

    OSHA isn't just about ending workplace fatalities, it is about reducing injuries and illnesses.

    "Where the law is subject to some other authority and has none of its own, the collapse of the state, in my view, is not far off; but if law is the master of the government and the government is its slave, then the situation is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that the gods shower on a state."

    Talking heads and political appointments do not have as much power as we would like to imagine. They can say big things for the media, however new laws must go through the legislative process. Thus "law is the master of the government." This is the premise that democracy and our society functions on.

    (I am now officially dorkified, and am going to rehab.) later.

  71. Tell that nonsense to Greece!

  72. Anon: why don't you? You are the one who doesn't seem to like it here. Go live somewhere else if you don't like it.

  73. ehscommoner:
    What is an "unacceptable risk"? You have a 1 in 4000 chance of dying EVERY TIME YOU GET INTO YOUR CAR. is that an unacceptable risk? because those odds are SIGNIFICANTLY higher that getting hurt or being killed at work.

    I will not dispute though that some of the things the company i work for has done to increase safety has saved us some $$. Energy bill for one dropped significantly. But OSHA is not a creator of those things and ideas. there are plenty of private sector institutions that are pinning away to find more economic and safer ways of doing business. Arguing with Congress is an exercise in futility at this point, so i won't even address that. BILLIONS of dollars worth in resources VS. a small company, the small company doesn't stand a chance.

    AGAIN, it does not make good business sense to NOT care about your employees. OSHA did not invent the idea that caring for your employees is a smart practice. Again, economics. It costs more money to have a high turnover of your employee base. It costs more money to have your employees getting hurt left and right. It costs A LOT of money if one of your employees gets killed. You are a poor business person if you don't think about those things and ways to minimize them to the nth degree. So i'll say it yet again, OSHA is not needed. Returning to the "stone age" is just a completely idiotic comment. people are far too educated. Do you really think that if there was no OSHA, people would be running around slapping each other in the face and pouring acid on each others heads? Do you really think that if an employer knew that a chemical they handle is an extreme carcinogen, they would just let their employees play with that stuff with NO PPE? OSHA is not a conscience. OSHA does not have some kind of moral compass that is above reproach. it simply doesn't make sense to not create a safe and healthy work place. with or without OSHA

    lastly, why did you quote Plato in regards to government or law? why would we listen to anything a GREEK philosopher said about government or society, when their government has crumbled to the ground... twice now (that i know of) that's like taking marriage advice from someone going through a divorce.

  74. You either believe government(OSHA and all the myriad other agencies) is the solution or government is the problem. If a country acts on the government solution approach and has endless agencies and laws, then the country usually goes broke and stays that way. If the government is the problem approach is taken, then the economy goes through booms and busts. Choose your poison. I choose the latter rather than the former.(you at least have boom times part of the time as opposed to being permanently poor).

  75. "Just curious... Abel, do you have a response? Or would you like these facts to go "unabated"???"

    To what end?

    When it’s pointed out that the penalties of EPA have had a huge positive impact, Jesse’s response is that it’s not the same thing, even though it is exactly the same thing. We have one of the safest food supplies in the world because we put USDA inspectors in every meat processing plant. Massey Energy not withstanding, the mines in this country became much safety once MSHA was created and every underground mine received at least one inspection per year.

    Look at where deregulation has failed:

    How much are you paying for electricity? Nearly half of the electricity put into our national power grid is lost during transmission because of the antiquated system. Yet there is no motivation for the owners of the grid to upgrade because they’re also the power generators, and in most places there is no competition, so if you want electricity you have to pay them twice what it’s worth.

    Is the loan on your house greater than the value of the house? How’s your IRA? Thank the unregulated banking industry for that.

    Jesse also says “Finally, to answer your question about alternatives to regulatory bodies I would answer the judicial system. Person dies, Family sues, Business thinks twice and changes ways. More effective than regulatory bodies in a million examples.”

    Rely on lawsuits? Please. Worker’s Compensation is the sole remedy in every state (except for self-insured companies), and employees covered by WC CAN’T sue their employer for injuries at work. And what about chemical exposures where the illness doesn’t show up for years, like cancer, when the employer is out of business? And how does suing your employer help if you’re dead?

    BP killed 15 people in Texas, they were sued and agreed to billions of dollars in payouts. Guess what? They did it again. All an employer has to do is file bankruptcy, skip out on the judgment, and then start a new company doing the same thing. We know it happens, we deal with those owners all the time.

    Law suits are not the answer, we have too many lawyers already.

    Tim said: “Take ALL of the deaths that have been suffered in the labor force over the past 50 years, 30 years, 10 years, whatever. How ever far you'd like to go back. Divide that by the total labor force. Answer: LESS THAN ONE PERCENT. the chances of the events OSHA is trying to mitigate are also less than one percent. so can you justify absorbing millions of dollars in cost towards mitigating a risk that probably will never happen?”

    This was wrong in so many ways. First, to treat all work sectors equally is ridiculous, a data entry clerk doesn’t have the same risks a logger has. And OSHA doesn’t look at every industry as having the same risks.

    Second, the risk isn’t calculated on a per year basis, but over a work life. In 2008 the fatality rate for loggers was 120/100,000. In a given year, that’s not a big number, but taken over a 40 year work life, that’s about a 5% chance of dying. For all jobs, the fatality rate is 3.7/100,000, or about 0.15%, or 1.5 in a thousand, chance of dying over your work life. And that’s just for work place fatalities, not illnesses, which are approximately 10 times higher. In other words, over a 40 year work life, you have a 1.5% chance of dying because of work.

    Third, it doesn’t take millions of dollars to protect loggers! Corks, chaps, eye protection, hearing protection and teach them how to cut properly. You should be able to all that for less than $500 per year.

    Tim also said: “BILLIONS of dollars worth in resources VS. a small company, the small company doesn't stand a chance.” Jesse said something similar earlier.

    I’m guessing that neither has actually looked at OSHA’s budget, a whopping $560 million, almost $200 million of which is given to the states, BLS, or doled out as grants. So we have $360 million, with 1,100 compliance officers, where are all our resources and power? Am I missing something?

  76. Whoever keeps bringing up Greece, you really should fact check first. Not every European country is as liberal as you think, and Greece had been ruled by the New Democracy (ND) party for the last five years, until October of last year. The ND is the party that brought down the economy of Greece, they also happen to be the party that most vehemently supports the free market concept. In other words, the push for a free market destroyed their economy. Having said that, there is still no comparison between Greece and the US, they have 11 million people and a GDP of less than 350 billion, and the government defines the word “corrupt.”

    As for Anon who said: “You either believe government(OSHA and all the myriad other agencies) is the solution or government is the problem.” I’m sorry, but that’s too simple. Government can be both, and often has been. There is no either/or, good government is a tension between anarchy and totalitarianism, and at any given time can lean one way or the other.

    Since EHS quoted Plato, I’m going to quote Abraham Lincoln: “The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves in their separate, and individual capacities. In all that the people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere. The desirable things which the individuals of a people can not do, or can not well do, for themselves, fall into two classes: those which have relation to wrongs, and those which have not. Each of these branch off into an infinite variety of subdivisions. The first that in relation to wrongs embraces all crimes, misdemeanors, and nonperformance of contracts. The other embraces all which, in its nature, and without wrong, requires combined action, as public roads and highways, public schools, charities, pauperism, orphanage, estates of the deceased, and the machinery of government itself. From this it appears that if all men were just, there still would be some, though not so much, need for government.”

    And finally ESHCommoner, thank you, I know there are companies who get what we’re trying to do and it’s nice to hear from them once in awhile. Does your company have a wellness program? If so, maybe they can help you with your weight and WoW issues.

  77. Abel,

    Great Lincoln quote. I am with you.

    Unfortunately, wellness has a long way to go. I think NIOSH is doing a great job with this topic. However in industry, it is a hard sell when people already feel they do enough, and see the addition to the bottom line these programs have. I understand the importance, and have seen people's lives saved through free PSA screenings at work, etc (no more mastercard references.) That is why we are in EHS/OHS right?

    I haven't addressed many of the Greece jabs because it goes without saying that their laws lost authority (hence the Plato quote, which I also thought was a jab, duh.) Even a blue-collar commoner such as myself can see this.

    As for the risk comparisons with Toasters, etc., these aren't measured in years working life, etc. Last time I was looking at electrical fatalities for national stats, I think it was something around 400 household/year. Also, some simple remedies would be following general electrical safety principals (i.e. gfci in your kitchen, or god forbid your bathroom in the case you decide to take a bath with the toaster.)I think OSHA usually has these covered. I just ignore things that are definite red herrings. I have way too much work helping protect peoples safety to do to go around trying to debunk every poor argument against the need for regulatory oversight. Really, is this discussion even needed in the light of current affairs (BP, Massey, entire world economic system failures)?

    Some people really don't get it (the nebulousness) until their best friend or family member is one of the statistics.

    The mental health-care system in America (and the world for that matter) is suspect at best, so no WoW help. Good news though, I have recovered, a couple Old-Style 22 oz'ers and a good ole joke help.

  78. Abel,

    The majority of EPA fines I see are for accidents/incidents that actually happen. OSHA writes the vast majority of it's citations based on the potential for an accident/incident to occur. Argue that...and remember the difference next time a cop writes you a ticket because your car has the potential to go faster than the posted speed limit. There is a difference.

    My problem is with the current state of OSHA not the root concept of regulation or an affinity for keeping people safe.

    The concept of fines based on potential and not occurrence is a slippery slope because the potential for risk is infinite. So, if you want to have some intellectual debate please give me your best argument that risk can feasibly be reduced to zero. Or argue my comments on diminishing returns: as you approach zero the cost will shoot through the atmosphere. And if you are better versed on EPA citations and they also fine based on potential please don't bother telling me. It wouldn't change my argument. It would only include them in it.

    I understand safety. My last two houses have been on a cul-de-sac (therefore no through traffic) purposefully so my daughter can play in the front yard without me obsessing over heavy traffic or whether a car is going to come flying by. That was a safe choice that I made (without stimulus by the government might I add). Pardon me for not having a reference to base this on but I would guess I have probably reduced the risk of my daughter being hit by a passing car in front of our house by 5 or 10 or 100 times by making this decision AND the lot I'm on cost no more than the one up the street on the busy corner. Therefore the return on safety for my investment is VERY HIGH. I could be even more safe by putting up a 10 foot thick concrete wall around my lot but the margin of benefit to cost starts to get slightly smaller for that much added safety (you could learn most of this in an entry level economics college course FYI)

    Now, let's compare that to OSHA fining a bakery with a few employees for not having a jug of pink hand soap labeled...Really? You might as well fine an employee for having a show untied. The return on safety on that investment is slim to none.

  79. As far as my electrical bill, home loan, and IRA go: they are fine...thanks for asking. Not everyone expects perfection or needs the government to keep them out of financial trouble (or out of the way of danger). Here is another logical flaw in many of your defenses of OSHA. Creating rules for the exception. Although the numbers of bad loans could be described as "relatively staggering" or "shocking" 1. The majority of people AREN'T upside down on their house 2. Government intervention was at least partially responsible for the housing bubble 3. There will always be stupidity and greed and therefore will always be people that buy into bad investments (just like there are people who can find ways to hurt themselves if you put them in a padded room). Not to defend Tim but you criticize him for saying less than 1% chance of dying and then correct him to 1.5%. WOW. YOU on the other hand use bad home loans as a commonplace rule for evidence when really (especially if you use the same math of a "40 year work life") it is a fairly insignificant percentage. But, I forgot...you OSHA folks don't use math or science to justify things...you're limited to emotions that say "losing a home is HORRIBLE". Good argument.

    Rely on the judicial process? Yes, thank you. For starters it is a core element of this countries structural engineering. It's called the judicial branch, is talked about in things like the constitution along with the executive and legislative branches...you learn about it in grade-school. You want to say that OSHA has impact and the legal system is whacked? You are off your rocker.
    I.E. The Wal-Mart black-friday trampling case:
    OSHA fined the largest company in the world a few thousand dollars.
    The family SUED and won for MILLIONS. Rightfully so. They deserved it. Not OSHA.
    Furthermore the Districts attorney forwent a $10,000 cap criminal suit and worked out a deal for a $400,000 victims' compensation and remuneration fund and Wal-Mart gave $1.5 million to Nassau County social services programs and nonprofit groups.
    So, yes.
    To put it bluntly the U.S. Judicial System rocks OSHA's socks.

    Also, BP didn't kill anyone. Human error, faulty equipment, and bad planning did. But that statement pinpoints the way you use emotion over reason to romanticize your mission for a justification of purpose that surpasses all human logic. This sort of irrational reaction is the definition of phrases such as "hell bent" and "seeing red". Good work.

    Final comments.
    Abel: "a whopping $560 million".


    That is gifted and not even earned.

    Yes. You are missing something.

  80. This comment has been removed by the author.

  81. Just a quick comment to add to Jesse's...

    $560 Million divided by 1100 officers = $509,090... chump change to you i guess

    BUT, since OSHA so graciously donates 200 million

    $360 million divided by 1100 officers = 327,272 again... chump change

    Funny thing though, i know more than just 1100 people are "employed" by OSHA, but when you get your check, does it say OSHA or does it say UNITED STATES TREASURY? So there is a "budget". but what happens if you go over that? you just hit a brick wall and stop moving? If you went to some business site, and saw that they were in serious violation, and it was going to cost X amount of dollars to investigate, would OSHA say, "oops sorry we're out of money, wait til next year"? OR would they say "go get em'! we'll take care of congress" We all know the government as is doesn't know when to say "when". So money will continue to pour out of OSHA for as long as congress allows it. but you're right, Abel, half a billion dollars VS a company that doesn't make a million in a year, Yes, i would say they don't stand a chance. you also don't remember, it's a FEDERAL AGENCY. What about all of the DOL's resources??? but you're right, they wouldn't help out at all if OSHA needed it. (is the sarcasm detected yet?)

  82. Greece is the word! Greece is the USA's future if we continue funding more and more government. And boy does the government do almost everything for the people in Greece. It's basically money for nothing for the 20% of the Greece population that works for their government. OSHA in the USA is only a tiny speck of the big USA financial picture but the principle of using the government for all answers applies. Even The New York Times newspaper(very liberal) admits Greece is USA's future if the US Gov't keeps spending money like water. Yes, look into the crystal ball and that little country called Greece becomes the USA. It's extremely obvious but never mind the facts. Keep whistling past the graveyard. Reality has an ugly way of always showing up no matter your biased beliefs.

  83. Jesse,

    This EPA citation is for not having a written program: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/926fcc3fe15978088525771f0060cb86!OpenDocument

    This one is for claiming something is anti-microbial but isn't: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/ac0c1af1625888608525771b00561e83!OpenDocument

    This one is for failing to file and annual report: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/1b9e08c294d899bb8525771b0054fa43!OpenDocument

    This $5,000,000 case is for importing engines from China that don't meet EPA emissions standards, not that the engines were polluting, but that they might pollute: http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/d0cf6618525a9efb85257359003fb69d/b14a70e1f812ccb18525771f00598dd0!OpenDocument

    Those are just THIS MONTH! And it's only the biggest ones, there were several more.

    But ask yourself this: what are EPA’s pollution limits used for? Answer: to reduce the likelihood of people developing diseases when exposed to those chemicals. Not because they did develop disease, but because they might develop disease. EPA’s requirement to report spills isn’t because someone died, it’s because that chemical MIGHT do harm to the environment or people. It’s all risk management, just as OSHA regulations are.

    What you and Tim seem to be missing is that every OSHA regulation is based on assessing risks (even those adopted from consensus standards). In 1980 the Supreme Court ruled in INDUSTRIAL UNION DEPARTMENT, AFL-CIO v. AMERICAN PETROLEUM INSTITUTE ET AL. (http://people.hofstra.edu/vern_r_walker/health_and_safety_course/Benzene.htm) that OSHA can set standards based on reducing risk. The Court said: "First, the requirement that a "significant" risk be identified is not a mathematical straitjacket. It is the Agency's responsibility to determine, in the first instance, what it considers to be a "significant" risk. Some risks are plainly acceptable and others are plainly unacceptable. If, for example, the odds are one in a billion that a person will die from cancer by taking a drink of chlorinated water, the risk clearly could not be considered significant. On the other hand, if the odds are one in a thousand that regular inhalation of gasoline vapors that are 2% benzene will be fatal, a reasonable person might well consider the risk significant and take appropriate steps to decrease or eliminate it. Although the Agency has no duty to calculate the exact probability of harm, it does have an obligation to find that a significant risk is present before it can characterize a place of employment as "unsafe.""

    Check out the majority and dissenting opinions, the conservative judges consented, the liberal judges dissented and claimed that this test was too restrictive on OSHA. Read any one of the preambles to an OSHA standard, they all include a risk assessment.

    Nowhere will you ever hear anyone from OSHA say that all risk can be eliminated, it can’t and we know that. When we write a standard, a risk assessment is done and an acceptable level of risk is still tolerated. If it wasn’t, all of our exposure limits would be 0.00 ppm, or all machines would have to be enclosed, and no one would be allowed to wear a respirator. We control to what political appointees determine is an acceptable level of risk.

  84. It’s also ironic that you mentioned getting a ticket for speeding, because what are speed limits? After all, speed does not kill, sudden, unexpected stops kill. The greater the difference from zero to your travelling speed, the greater the risk of death. Speed limits are used to reduce that risk, they are a form of risk management. Not having a guard on a machine doesn’t guarantee that someone will lose a finger, but having a guard reduces the risk of it happening, in the exact same way a speed limit reduces risk.

    You said: “I understand safety. My last two houses have been on a cul-de-sac (therefore no through traffic) purposefully so my daughter can play in the front yard without me obsessing over heavy traffic or whether a car is going to come flying by. That was a safe choice that I made (without stimulus by the government might I add).”

    No government stimulus you say? Obviously you haven’t paid much attention to the FHA, which sets rules on where homes are placed, including the layout of streets. FHA regulations are for short-run streets, like cul-de-sacs, to reduce traffic and driver’s speed, all for the purpose of reducing risk. You were able to buy that house on a safer street because the government mandates safer development, you just didn’t know it (or, apparently, appreciate it).

    The government passes regulations everyday that are intended to reduce risk to people, many of which you benefit from, but most of which you never see. Fire retardant pajamas for children, electrical wiring methods, elevator inspections, seat belts, non-asbestos insulation, the list is endless. The reason the government does this is because no person can know the risks of every thing they do or use every day. Should the FAA not regulate airline safety? Should DOT not require design specs for bridges? Should HUD not restrict lead paint in homes?

    You also said: “Now, let's compare that to OSHA fining a bakery with a few employees for not having a jug of pink hand soap labeled...Really? You might as well fine an employee for having a show untied. The return on safety on that investment is slim to none.”

    Seriously Jesse? Find me an actual case where that happened, not an ‘I heard it happened to...’ but an actual case. If a CSHO did that; 1) They would be violating OSHA policy (regular hand soap is considered a consumer product and is therefore exempt from labeling requirements); 2) Their AD would beat them about the head and should with a 2x4 (figuratively of course); 3) The other CSHOs in the office would mock and ridicule them for the rest of their career. It is possible that a company was cited for multiple labeling violations and one instance of that was for soap (unlikely, but possible if the soap was ‘industrial grade’), but it would never hold up as a standalone citation. Talk about an emotional argument, wow.

    You said: “you OSHA folks don't use math or science to justify things...you're limited to emotions...”

    Death is emotional, especially unnecessary death, only sociopaths feel no emotions. Now don’t get all hyper, I’m not calling you a sociopath, I believe you do care about people dying at work, even if you won’t admit it. It’s also ironic that you accuse us of using only emotional arguments when the statement you made was purely and emotional argument. Where is your science or math to back that up? As I said earlier, just read the risk assessment of any of our standards and tell me there is no science or math.

    We may disagree on what is an acceptable risk, but that’s just fighting over numbers, the Supreme Court has set our limits as somewhere between 1/1,000 and 1/1,000,000,000.

  85. You said: “Abel: "a whopping $560 million". Me: "THAT IS OVER A HALF A BILLION DOLLARS!"”

    Fine, to you and me that’s a lot of money, but seriously, you think in government terms that a lot of money? The 2009 federal budget was 3.5 TRILLION dollars. That makes the OSHA budget 1/7000th of the total budget. You think that’s a lot of money for a federal agency? The Department of Defense wastes more money each year than OSHA could spend in 10 years (and don’t take that as a slam against DOD, it isn’t, if anything it’s jealousy).

    In 2009 BP had almost $250 BILLION in sales, and you think we have resources? They are 500 times our size.

    Speaking of BP, you said: “Also, BP didn't kill anyone. Human error, faulty equipment, and bad planning did.”

    That sounds like someone who never accepts blame for anything, like someone who blames random chance for everything. In this country employers are responsible for the safety of their employees. Period. That is what we, as a society, have determined though the constitutionally mandated legislative process, and that has been affirmed by the constitutionally mandated judicial process. If person starts a company and hires employees, that person has legally assumed responsibility for the safety of those employees. Employees also have a responsibility, specifically to follow all of the safety rules established by the employer.

    Management at BP made decisions. Those decisions lead to a catastrophic release of hydrocarbon fuels and a subsequent explosion. Many of those deaths occurred because the company chose to place a temporary work trailer in the middle of the processing plant, yet both industry practice and an API standard prohibit that practice.

    You can quibble with the semantics, but even BP has admitted that their practices lead to that release and explosion and they have taken responsibility for those deaths. You can chose to believe in random chance, but you’re living with your head in the sand and you’re likely to get your ass shot off.

    And finally, my favorite: “But that statement pinpoints the way you use emotion over reason to romanticize your mission for a justification of purpose that surpasses all human logic.”

    That, Jesse, is just about the most illogical, emotional statement I have ever read.

    First, I don’t have to justify anything because OSHA ain’t goin’ away. In 2000, Republicans had control of the White House and both chambers of Congress and not only did we not get eliminated, we got modest budget increases! My question to readers of this blog has never been ‘how do we justify ourselves,’ it’s been ‘how do we measure our impact.’ Until we understand our impact, we can’t make meaningful changes.

    Second, most of your arguments have been emotional. There is no logical way to determine what is acceptable and what is unacceptable when it comes to risk. You have espoused your personal beliefs yet provided no logic for those beliefs. Nor do you need to, beliefs are, by their very nature, emotional responses.

    Your argument that a 1.5% chance of death over a 40 year working life is acceptable is not based on logic, it’s based on personal belief. Is it logical to say a 1 in 100 chance is acceptable risk but 1 in 2 isn’t? If you asked every person in this country: Of the 150 million working people living in the US, is it OK with you if 2.25 million of them die because of work, the overwhelming majority will say no. No matter which side of that question you come down on I can guarantee that you didn’t reach you decision logically.

    Third, nobody who has ever interviewed someone who witnessed the death of a friend, or who has been up to their ass in mud on a construction site as the bags of concrete ‘accidentally’ fall right next to them, or who has had to put in 36 hour days so they could sample the third shift, or had to testify before a judge, feels any romance for the job. It’s hard, it’s stressful, it ruins marriages, and it keeps us from our families.

  86. The SHILL has spoken! All others tremble in his(her) presence!

  87. Keep slaying the trolls Abel.

  88. Abel knows all!

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  92. I propose the creation of an independent oversight regulatory agency be created for the evaulation of all regulatory agencies(like OSHA). Not those phoney congressional committees that just play politics. The new oversight committee is made up of equal conservatives and liberals at all times(i.e. is truly independent) The new oversight committe will statistically evaluate all regulatory agencies and if no meaningful results(subject to oversight committe interpretation) can be found in 5 years then, the evaluated regulatory agency must immediately be closed down, not in 6 months, not in a month, but closed overnight. This process continues until only results proven regulatory agencies will remain. If there are no measurable proven results, then any regulatory agency is out of business. No political fooling around. No results(not opinions), then no regulatory agency.

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  101. "removed"? why?...

    Because people are trying to devolve the blog. As I've said before this isn't a blog about government, if you hate the government, fine, I don't care, this isn't the place for those views.

    This is my fault, I've allowed people to drag me into a conversation that doesn't meet the goals I have for the blog. People need to accept two things:

    1. OSHA exists
    2. OSHA will continue to exist (at least for the foreseeable future)

    Now, keeping those two things in mind, I have been trying to ask:

    1. How can OSHA be better?
    2. How can the S&H profession be better?
    3. What do you want to know about OSHA?

    If people can't demonstrate some common courtesy and respect those parameters, then I will change the commenting requirements and only comments I approve will be posted. I would hate to do that, but it is MY blog, not the publics.

    If you hate the government, fine start your own blog (they are free) and tell me where it is and we'll slug it out there, but I am attempting to keep this blog focused on S&H and OSHA (admittedly with only limited success), anything else is unacceptable.

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  103. Abel, What if OSHA (as a government agency) was making it HARDER to keep people safe???

  104. Tim, OSHA make it harder?
    What if a real company (that I work for) was facing OSHA fines so blown out of proportion that we (as just one example) couldn't afford to convert two fork trucks over to EX?
    You mean like that?

    Respectfully, Abel, would you consider the idea that part of the conversation about making OSHA better and employees safer could include OSHA doing less.

    Is that too political for your taste?

    ...and "anonymous" is right. I have asked before and still don't understand how congressional reactions to high profile events, followed by hearings with OSHA, followed by NEP's and new regs can result in a rocking boat and you can disregard politics, government, etc. as a crucial element of the discourse you are trying to achieve.
    *It is the elephant in the room

  105. Abel wants a blog that:

    1)only people that agree that OSHA works can post,

    2)people can come up with ideas that make OSHA work better since they already start with the assumption that OSHA works,

    3)answer questions from people inquiring about OSHA

    What about?:

    1)people who think OSHA does not work and OSHA should be abolished

    2)people you think OSHA should be severely cut back since OSHA does not work.

    3)people who already know too much about the failings of OSHA and want to share this knowledge with others.

    Abel only wants to deal with 1/2 of the story, the half he agrees with. Obviously Abel only wants to hear from people who agree with him. How nice! It's his blog and his rules, but it explains why OSHA has very severe faults by having people that think like Abel working in OSHA especially in management positions. Abel is the perfect example of OSHA's faults and it is on display in his blog. Countries do that and citizens that don't agree with the authorities go to jail.

  106. The let's get back to the discussion of dis-proving/proving the effectiveness of OSHA. It's not enough to track fatality rates. The fatality rates in construction may be falling due to less building. Less Pb illness may be in the data as "dirty" industries move off shore.

    But we could "weight" our fatality or LWDI by SIC or NAICS codes. Then use BLS data to identify the number of employees in each industry to determine the change in each industry's population. This would enable us to track rates within a SIC code over the years. We could then compare rates in those industries pre-SEP and post-SEP. I actually hope someone at BLS is already doing this, because it is comparatively easy to do.

    The main problems with this model would seem to be reporting inaccuracy, and correlating the changed rates to enforcement as opposed to some other change, such as new technology. To some extent, new technology is also driven by the mere existence of OSHA. But also by the costs associated with worker injuries. Those two factors have always been difficult to tease apart in HSE studies.

    In any case, that my 2 cents on a quick and dirty way to track the effectiveness of OSHA enforcement. Peace.

  107. "Abel, What if OSHA (as a government agency) was making it HARDER to keep people safe???"

    "Respectfully, Abel, would you consider the idea that part of the conversation about making OSHA better and employees safer could include OSHA doing less."

    Tim, Jesse, those are legitimate topics, but you can't just claim it, you have to provide some kind of evidence (anecdotal doesn't prove any thing). Provide a study, just one scientifically valid, peer reviewed, study.

  108. "But we could "weight" our fatality or LWDI by SIC or NAICS codes. "

    Anon if I ever have any free time I'll try to do just that, it's a good idea.