Term Paper: Unlike Our Predecessors

Pages: 22 (6068 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Careers  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] In addition, this safety officer must be able to provide feasible, cost-effective solutions to the workplace challenges faced by the city.

The city's safety officer provides members of these 18 departments with initial training in workplace safety. While this initial training is quite competent, there is the distinct possibility that there are inconsistencies or varied training passed down from the selective committees of each of the 18 departments that the fourth city safety officer is responsible for. The selective committees of each of these 18 departments (whose members are trained by the city safety officer) are then responsible for training the remaining staff of each of these departments. If each department were to have its own safety officer, this possibility of the dilution of training would be significantly diminished.

Against the clear advantages of having a safety officer assigned to each department is the cost involved. However, it should be clear that an increase of workplace injury or illness also has its costs. This is the question at hand: Will costs be saved by the hiring of an additional safety officer whose presence can prevent at least some workplace injuries or illnesses.

It is because the amount of work and responsibility borne by the city safety officer that at last some members of the Department of Health and Human Services are arguing for a safety officer to be assigned solely to this large department. Such a dedicated safety worker could help to reduce or even prevent workplace injury in the department, which currently has over 500 employees.

Under its current structure, the chair of the department's safety committee is assigned to the administrative analyst, who is responsible for conducting committee meetings - with the result that a great deal of knowledge about workplace safety can be dissipated along this chain of command, much like what occurs in the children's game of "Telephone."

However, if the Department of Health and Human Services were structured in the same way that the departments of water, energy and parks and recreation were structured, with a dedicated safety officer, then the employers of this department along with their managers - and the large segment of population that this department serves - would be better protected.

Literature Review

The literature on the importance of safety training is to some extent split along partisan lines, with some findings tending to shore up the claims of workers that they need greater protection and some findings tending to shore up the claims of employers that more regulations simply reduce efficiency without increasing safety.

As noted above, the agency primarily in charge of guaranteeing the safety of all American workers is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, almost always known by its acronym of OSHA. This federal department, which is an agency within the U.S. Department of Labor (and which was established by an act of Congress in 1970), works hand-in-hand with state occupational safety agencies.

The mission of OSHA, like that of Cal-OSHA, is extremely broad:

The mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to save lives, prevent injuries and protect the health of America's workers. To accomplish this, federal and state governments must work in partnership with the more than 100 million working men and women and their six and a half million employers who are covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

The mission of OSHA has always been to work for the workplace safety of each and every American worker by reducing hazards in the workplace to the greatest degree that is reasonably possible. The most important tool that OSHA has in carrying out this mission is its abilities (in partnership with state agencies) to carry out inspections that have as their mission the goal of enforcing mandatory job safety standards. These standards (it should be noted) are not universal but are set for each different industry according to the specific hazards each type of workplace holds for workers.

OSHA and its state partners have approximately 2100 inspectors, plus complaint discrimination investigators, engineers, physicians, educators, standards writers, and other technical and support personnel spread over more than 200 offices throughout the country. This staff establishes protective standards, enforces those standards, and reaches out to employers and employees through technical assistance and consultation programs.

Nearly every working man and woman in the nation comes under OSHA's jurisdiction (with some exceptions such as miners, transportation workers, many public employees, and the self-employed). Other users and recipients of OSHA services include: occupational safety and health professionals, the academic community, lawyers, journalists, and personnel of other government entities.

It should be noted that from its founding as an agency - indeed even before its founding, during the congressional debate leading up to its establishment as an agency, OSHA has generated what might well seem to be more than its share of controversy. Perhaps as a sign that it is indeed doing its job, it has drawn considerable criticism from both industry and business and labor groups. This in fact should hardly surprise us: The entire idea of having the government responsible for workplace safety has long stirred resentment by employers who wish to set their own conditions (and in private industry to maximize profits).

Labor groups have also predictably been displeased with the group - which they believe does not do enough to protect workers from the greed and carelessness of employers.

Business leaders have tended to respond that while they too are interested in workplace safety, OSHA regulations are arcane and difficult to understand or implement - and often irrelevant to the actual hazards of particular workplaces. The outcry from business over proposed ergonomics regulations two years ago exemplifies this type of complaint:

Industry criticism of OSHA's proposal centers on several aspects. Chief among them is that the proposal is too vague, costly, and conflicts with existing laws. Some feel the new rules do not adequately address causation factors, resulting in employer liability for injuries that occurred outside the workplace. Others feel that vague standards may require employers to modify essential job functions by instituting job rotation, job enlargement, increasing the number of workers on a specific job, redesigning jobs, limiting workplace exposure, and transferring employees. There is a view that the new program will cover conditions that do not qualify as disabilities under the American Disabilities Act, resulting in increased costs and demands on employers to deal with conditions that do not meet the current federal standard for disabilities. The proposal has incorporated a "single event" threshold to trigger the provisions of the program rather than a more traditional "frequency of same injuries in same job" standard. The program also adopts policies that could deprive management of its ability to promote workplace safety. Employee drug testing, for example, is singled out as a management tool that might discourage reporting of injuries. Employee incentive or award programs that focus on reducing workplace hazards are also specifically identified as employer policies that may "discourage" reporting of injuries in order to qualify for an award. Other restrictions on management prerogatives are seen as an invitation for fraudulent and invalid employee claims under the program.

But even as many business and industry leaders argue that the entire issue of worker safeguards and workplace safety should be left up to individual employers, labor leaders and often individual employers (especially those who are in government work, as is the case here, rather than in a private company) continue to argue that OSHA's enforcement procedures are far too weak. Moreover, advocates for workers' rights have made persuasive arguments that OSHA has in fact failed to make significant reductions in occupational hazards at least in large measure because the agency has not kept current with new hazards that are daily introduced into the workplace.

This has become especially true during the last two years as the Bush Administration has served more as an advocate for employers and businesses than for employees. This assessment in the Daily Labor Report - a watchdog publication for labor concerns published in Washington DC - outlines these concerns:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 2003 reflects an imbalance in how it treats outreach for workers and consultation for employers, according to a member of the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health.

Peg Seminario, labor representative on the advisory committee, made her remarks in a discussion following an update March 12 by OSHA Administrator John Henshaw.

A number of subjects including the agency's FY 2003 budget, were covered in Henshaw's update. Seminario charged that the agency is doing very little to support direct contact with workers.

Seminario, who is the safety director for the AFL-CIO, said that up to 1980, the agency had balanced outreach… [END OF PREVIEW]

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