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.


The Stick and the Snake

23 02 2013

Mount Sinai was not Moses’ first burning bush experience. It was earlier, also through a burning bush, that God told Moses He wanted him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. That, I think, was one of the most interesting conversations recorded in the Bible.

Moses was tending sheep when he saw this bush on fire but was not being consumed…it was burning but it wasn’t burning up. He found that to be a bit odd and decided to check it out. When he got closer, God told him, from within the bush, to take his shoes off because he was standing on holy ground. God laid out the plan for Moses to go into town and tell the Egyptian king that he was planning to take all of God’s people, who were, at the time, serving as slaves to the Egyptians, out to live on their own.

Moses didn’t think it was a good idea for him to do this-someone else maybe but not him. He threw up every excuse he could think of and was pushing God to the limit.

A Test of Faith

Now, what was so interesting about this conversation was the show of faith, along with the no-show.

God had told Moses He would give him all the things to say and that Moses was just along to vocalize God’s words. Now it was clear that Moses didn’t want this assignment in spite of the fact that God was going to be doing all the heavy work. Moses didn’t exhibit faith in his own abilities or that God would come through as He promised.

God finally convinced Moses this was not a volunteer mission. He had chosen Moses and that was that. So God began explaining to Moses the things he should say and the things he should do to convince Pharaoh that he was on a mission for God. One of the things was to impress him with his staff.

God asked Moses what he held in his hand.

“It’s my staff,” he replied.

"Just to be sure I understand..you want me to do what?"

“Just to be sure I understand..you want me to do what?”

“Throw it on the ground,” God commanded.

When Moses threw his staff on the ground, it turned into a snake.

“Now, pick it up by the tail.” God told him.

Without hesitation, Moses did as God commanded. Now, if ever there was a time to show a weakness in my faith that would be it. If God said, “Bill, you’re going to lead My people out of Washington and here’s how WE’RE going to do it,” I would like to think I would have the faith to say something like, “Okay, Lord, when are we going to do this? I’m ready.” But, when He tells me to reach down and grab the snake by the tail, I’m thinking, “Say what?” I might hesitate a little, although I would hope I would not. Anyway, you know the rest of the story. Moses did as he was told and brought everyone out of Egypt to spend the next 40 years wandering circles in the desert.

In case you've never seen one, these are tobacco sticks.

In case you’ve never seen one, these are tobacco sticks.

This story reminds me of when I was 5 years old. I went with my family to the drive-in to see The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston. The scene in which “Moses” threw his staff on the ground and it turned into a snake made a lasting impression on me.  The next day I was outside playing and found a tobacco stick in our garage. I took it over near the house and threw it, a la Charlton Heston, onto the steps. As it rolled down off the steps onto the ground, I began to think perhaps this stick on the steps thing wasn’t such a good idea. I suddenly became so afraid, I didn’t hang around long enough to see if it turned into a snake or not. I ran! I guess there’s a time limit that it can remain a snake because when I got up the nerve to go back outside (from a different door) it had already reverted back to a stick. Maybe I should have gotten two tobacco sticks-one to change into a snake and the other to beat it with.

Remember the drive-in? Entertainment under the stars.

Remember the drive-in? Entertainment under the stars.




And this is how they were used. Using tobacco twine (string) the leaves were "looped" onto the sticks.

And this is how they were used. Using tobacco twine (string) the leaves were “looped” onto the sticks.