With Authority Comes Responsibility

12 01 2017

We’ve all seen the pictures of some poor schmuck in some third world country standing at the top of a pole, 77b597ff2e64070f7b16877a0e4fc36auntethered, while trying to do his job and avoid electrocution. Well, there was a day when working in this country was just as dangerous (and still is in some corners of the country). I see it all the time.

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

I am a safety consultant. I enjoy what I do. In my job, which I have been doing since 1988, I go around the country training workers to be safe, training managers to manage safety programs, identifying hazards by conducting mock OSHA inspections and program audits. To sum it up, I’m only trying to help management fulfill not just a regulatory but a moral obligation, as well as to provide safeguards for their workers. If you hire someone to work for you, you are responsible, by law, to provide those workers with a workplace that is safe and healthful. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) puts it this way: “Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

 

This is known as the General Duty Clause and is found in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

 

In the years preceding the passage of the OSHAct, there were a reported 15,000 work-related fatalities each year in this country alone. But the sad truth is, it should not have taken legislation to force employers to make the workplace safer. Even before there was a regulatory requirement, there has always been, or at least for the past 3400 years, when Moses wrote the book of Deuteronomy, that moral obligation.

 

So, who was the first safety consultant? God. Through Moses, in the Book of Deuteronomy, God told the Jewish nation to safeguard those for whom they were responsible. Deuteronomy 22:8 says, “When you build a new house, then you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring guilt of bloodshed on your household if anyone falls from it.”

 

It was God’s position that if one should place himself/herself in a position of responsibility for another, he/she should take precautions to safeguard those under their charge.

 

I will say that in my 39-year career as a safety professional, I have seen vast improvement in management attitudes and recognition of their moral responsibilities; but, once in a while I go into a workplace that takes me back to the pre-OSHA days when there were no national workplace safety laws and employers put the lives of their workers at risk for the sake of the bottom line. Unfortunately, when I go into a workplace, I can only preach OSHA and not the Bible.