Improved worker safety an opportunity for employer cost savings, former OSHA head says
Potential cost savings in the area of healthcare and worker’s compensation could one day elevate the importance of safety within organizations, says a former head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
There are myriad ways that injuries can increase expenses for a company, from the work time lost by the employee to replacement costs for damaged tools and equipment to the failure to meet a production deadline, said Edwin Foulke during a National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) webinar.
“I’m convinced that the safety profession and the safety people within all companies are going to become more critically important to upper management, in order to look for ways to reduce costs and thus allow the companies to remain profitable and competitive,” Foulke said during the Tuesday webinar.
Tower climbing is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, and with carriers continuing to rapidly deploy LTE networks, there’s been a renewed focus on the perils of the profession.
Foulke said he has noticed an increase in the number of inspections and citations and the amount of penalties assigned to citations under the Obama administration. He provided a list of what he referred to as OSHA’s Top 25 low-hanging-fruit violations.
“I could go to any facility pretty much in the country and find half of these violations,” Foulke said.
Failure to conduct a workplace hazard assessment of personal protective equipment (PPE) and to have written certification proving that the PPE hazard assessment was completed are the two violations that head the list of easy violations to spot for inspectors.
The full list of violations, in addition to a list of OSHA’s most frequently cited violations, are available in the webinar presentation. Foulke urged companies to use the lists at tools to help ensure compliance with OSHA standards.
But appeasing OSHA can’t be the extent of a safety plan, Foulke said. Meeting OSHA standards should be the base of a good safety program, but they should not be the entirety of it, he said. Foulke shared 13 strategies that every employer should implement to build an effective safety program and lessen vulnerability for OSHA citations.
Articulating a company’s commitment to safety is the first step toward actually improving safety for workers and enjoying the benefits that come with that, Foulke said.
“In the mission, vision and values—particularly the values—we have to have safety as our core value,” he said. “If you don’t have safety as your core value, you’re never going to have great safety, and then you’re never going to have great productivity, efficiency and quality.
“You’re not going to be as productive as you can, and you’re not going to be as profitable as you can. You’re not going to be as competitive as you could be.”
In 2006, President George W. Bush appointed Foulke to serve as Assistant Secretary of OSHA, which was a role he held until 2008. Foulke is now an attorney and partner with Fisher & Phillips.
The webinar, which can viewed here, is called “Achieving Zero Injuries – Best Practices in Workplace Safety.”