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.


Practice What You Preach, Big Boy!

16 09 2012

My office was in desperate need of painting.  So, on Labor Day, along with my constant companion- my wife- to keep me company,  I set out to complete this chore which I had been dreading.  If you follow this blog,  you know how I much I loathe painting. But this was something that had to be done.


Now, I’ll just cut to the chase.  I was standing on a ladder while painting up above my head.  As I was coming down the ladder, I stepped wrong and lost my balance, falling from the second rung. I came down on the side of my left foot. The pain was enough to bring a normal man to tears, but as you know, I’m not normal. Pain, (in my Italian accent) I laugh you inna da face..Ha! Chuck Norris would be proud!


With assistance from my trusty companion who, by the way, failed to break my fall, I pulled myself up into a chair. After a couple of minutes most of the pain had subsided and I was able to man-up and complete the job. Over the next few days, the swelling increased but the pain continued to subside. I diagnosed a sprained ankle which was quickly improving. There’s only one thing wrong with my diagnosis…I’m not a doctor.  On the following Thursday I felt a pain run down my left lower leg. Over the next few days the pain increased until Monday, a week following my fall, I was unable to put weight on my foot when I got out of bed. I decided it was time to see someone who was qualified to render a medical opinion.


At first the doctor diagnosed a bad sprain, but when I mentioned the pain down my leg she took another look at the x-ray and decided it was a fracture. Check out my earlier post, BT, Phone Home if you like reading about my ankle injuries.


Aside from the embarrassment I endured this week limping about the classroom in an air cast while teaching safety classes, I’m doing fine. My wife, no doubt feeling guilty because she failed to throw her body under me to prevent me from hitting the floor (!!!!!!), is taking great care of me, waiting on me hand and broken foot.