Often, businesses appear to view safety regulations as an impediment to business getting done. Iowa employers complain of "red tape" that makes jobs more expensive and increases their costs. But in the vast majority of cases, many of these safety regulations were only put in place after many workers were injured or killed in the performance of these tasks.
Yet there is often only a grudging acceptance of these safety regulations. Some employers flout these regulations and are fined as serial violators by OSHA. While they complain about the cost, what about the other cost, the one experienced by employees?
OSHA began last year to require employers to report work-related injuries statistics within 24-hours. This was done help allow OSHA to make more current decisions and detect dangerous trends as they happen and not leave these issues unaddressed for years while data is collected.
A Department of Labor doctor reports some successes of this program. In one case he describes, a worker lost his arm in a wood chipper. The employer, instead of stonewalling and protesting about government interference, shut down for a week and made safety improvements that exceeded those that OSHA was allowed to require.
They added power shutoffs, installed guardrails on all catwalks and provided handheld radios to all employees.
Now imagine how much better-motivated employees of this sawmill will be. Their employer valued them enough that after a severe incident, they stopped operations for a week to fix defects and provide real, concrete improvements in worker safety.
They didn't just put together a PowerPoint presentation that talks a lot about safety and stick up a few posters around the facility. The made real changes that will prevent similar injuries.
Why can't every employer do this?
Source: dol.gov, "A Year of Injuries, and Lessons," Dr. David Michaels, March 17, 2016