Point of Beginning - October 2009 - (Page 45)

safetysense | BY RONALD E. KOONS Watch out for the new OSHA. Let’s face it: We had eight years of a pro-business administration at the Department of Labor. Now, for at least the next four years, look for a lot of changes within OSHA and its DOL agencies. In the 2010 OSHA budget, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has requested that 130 new OSHA compliance officers be hired. The positions will be funded by a $51 million increase in OSHA’s budget. The budget increase will also fund 25 new positions for whistleblower complaint investigators and five new support positions. The budget also requests 20 new employees just to work on new OSHA regulation promulgation. OSHA before a citation is issued, and some serious increases in OSHA fines. The $7,000 serious citation would go to $12,000; the $70,000 willful or repeat citation would go to $120,000, and a new category would be added. The new category says that “if such a violation causes the death of an employee, such civil penalty amounts shall be increased to not more than $250,000 for such violation, but not less than $50,000 for such violation, except that for an employer with 25 or fewer employees such penalty shall not be less than $25,000 for such violation.” In addition to the monetary fines, the House is looking at increasing our prison populations. Serious injuries could lead to as much as five years in prison and 10 years if a fatality occurs. That sentence increases to 20 years if the same person has been previously convicted of the same violation. The Senate is also looking at various bills to increase OSHA’s power—and don’t underestimate an effort to honor the late Sen. Ted Kennedy by passing some of this legislation. What About Personal Responsibility? In more than 30 years of dealing with OSHA matters, I am still waiting on some common-sense legislation that penalizes the workers if they intentionally violate an OSHA regulation and the company can prove the worker had been adequately trained to recognize the hazard. Too much emphasis is being placed upon the acts of an employer and not enough on the employee. A company can train workers for hours and hours, but if the worker just doesn’t want to do something, the company still gets blamed. Now, I don’t want to take money out of workers’ pocket, but how about something like driving school? In many jurisdictions, when you commit a driving violation, you can have the first offense erased if you attend a remedial school. Why not do the same for OSHA violations? If workers had to give up a couple of Saturdays to attend safety training, they might think twice the next time about not wearing that vest or harness. Don’t get me wrong, though—I’m not saying that companies don’t have room for improvement. I have never seen a business that can’t do better at safety. I still speak on a regular basis with surveying firms that, unfortunately, have yet to establish a written safety and health program. The extent of their safety training is very limited. But these aren’t evil people www.rpls.com | Point of Beginning | OCTOBER 2009 In addition to these changes, there are also strong rumblings in safety circles that many of the programs that offer assistance to businesses may see some decrease in funding or be eliminated altogether. A Business Matter Most of the changes at OSHA will have the potential to take more hard-earned money out of the pockets of companies throughout the country. Don’t think so? How about an increase in the top OSHA citations? Currently, all serious citations start at $7,000 with repeat and willful violations starting at $70,000. Thankfully, most businesses don’t get cited as repeat or willful offenders. The vast majority of citations issued are deemed as serious. Congress is also considering legislation to increase OSHA’s safety bite. The House has introduced the Protecting America’s Workers Act (H.R. 2067).2 Within this proposed legislation, there are requirements for public employees’ protection, rights for injured workers or their heirs to be informed during an OSHA investigation and even participate in discussions with Ron Koons is co-owner, along with his wife, Sandee, of RoSaKo Safety. RoSaKo has conducted numerous presentations on safety equipment since 1993 and is known as a premier safety consulting firm in surveyor safety. http://www.rpls.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Point of Beginning - October 2009

Point of Beginning - October 2009
Web Site/Digital Edition Contents
Editor’s Points
Control on the Edge
Hurricane Watch
The Need for Speed
A Digital Desert
31 Degrees of Latitude
Taming the Wild GIS
The Magic Bullet
From the Ground Up
Professional Topography
Safety Sense
The Business Side
New & Notable
Classified Ads
Fun & Games
Ad Index

Point of Beginning - October 2009