You Deserve These Rules
By: Scott Debo, Safety Manager
Sachs Electric Company
Many of you likely play some role in workplace safety culture. Be it a foremen, superintendent, union or worker representative, company leadership or for many of us…a safety manager. Where ever you fit in to the professional safety picture your goals will be focused on ensuring that we all understand and follow the rules, recognize and eliminate hazards and get home safely.
That said, workplace safety has evolved so rapidly in recent years that jobsite rules and regulations can sometimes be overwhelming for industry or construction trades. The rules can change from project to project, owner to owner and even state to state. Jobsite orientations, equipment training, PPE requirements, job hazard analysis, fit-for-duty have all become part of a typical day for employees. Restrictions on the use of certain tools, equipment or processes that have been regular practice in years gone by can be frustrating to a seasoned craftsperson.
When I am in the field, I entertain many questions such as “Why are they making us do this?” or “When did this rule take effect?” Even comments like “This isn’t an OSHA rule is it?” or “Does our company endorse this practice?” I’ll bet this all sounds familiar. A standard retort is that the company running the project has placed these requirements and we must follow them. This explanation will often solicit the response, “Pretty soon we will show up to work in a giant protective BUBBLE…!”
Perhaps many of the extra safety measures out there these days are simply liability driven and not necessarily practical or even actually safer. It seems that corporate mandates are sometimes based on something other than reality. It can create confusion and frustration.
In the face of this despair I encourage the craftspeople to step back a moment and look at where this all comes from. Work place safety demands came from the workers. Organized labor, historically tragic and deadly events, wildcats and walkouts, marches and protests. Years of sweat and toil have gone into efforts that, after many, many years finally materialized as OSHA in 1970.
Massachusetts was the first state to pass safety laws in 1887 and the Department of Labor was created in 1913 by President Taft. In 1933, Frances Perkins became the first woman to serve on a Cabinet when she was appointed Secretary of Labor. There she created the Bureau of Labor Standards that helped states improve workplace safety standards. Much of what they did would be implemented by OSHA.
In mine operations, the Bureau of Mines was established by Congress on July 1, 1910, "To make diligent investigation of the methods of mining, especially in relation to the safety of miners and the appliances best adapted to prevent accidents." In a five-year period from 1906-1911, 13,228 miners were killed in U.S. coal mines.
Although your employer is enforcing these rules and regulations, thousands of American workers were injured or killed on this long road that’s led to today’s safety enforcement and workplace culture. There was a time when safety was certainly NOT the employer’s focus or concern. Business, society and legislation have all evolved and we have arrived in a place where American workers should expect a safe work place.
If you are on the job today in this great country; YOU DESERVE THESE RULES. You deserve to have a jobsite orientation, a job hazard analysis, equipment training, PPE requirements, fit-for-duty requirements and any other program that can elevate you to a safer career than those who went before you. If these things are not part of your workday, you should demand them.
Like many things in life, we can lose sight of the big picture. As a safety professional, union official or company representative take the opportunity remind your craftspeople that they are the reason you spend so much time and energy on safety. After all, they deserve it.
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