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OSHA Cowboy and the Spirit of Safety


Our plant had a group return last week from a week long trip to Austria. The group’s focus was to understand the ins and outs of a new oven for our plant expansion. They brought back stories of beer in the workplace cafeteria, cigarrettes on the factory floor, and quick excursions to abandoned castles on their way to and from work.

The stories that really raised my eyebrows were the those of safety protocols…or lack thereof. I was told of employees using makeshift tools that would never make it past today’s US OSHA standards.

The stories made me think of our good friend the OSHA cowboy. This picture is a classic in safety and pokes fun at OSHA’s perceived overkill to drive the safety industry.

I look at our risk-reduced cowboy here and find myself grateful for the job OSHA is doing. There is no such thing as too safe. Risk will never be obliterated. Keeping the US workplace as safe as possible, well that would require such silly things as hearing protection, safety glasses, and the like.

Not all employees in the world are guarded by the spirit of safety like the American worker. I have heard first-hand accounts of some foreign production facilities that have extra employees in the wings waiting for an industrial accident so they can work.

So here’s to you OSHA cowboy. I am glad you are around

Categories: Safety Tags: , , , ,
  1. May 19, 2013 at 3:02 am

    Bah! The issue is responsibility. Should the system be set so there is absolutely no risk and absolutely no responsibility for the worker to manage the risk?

    • May 21, 2013 at 9:03 pm

      I absolutly agree with you that there is a level of responsibility on the part of each individual employee. There is no such thing as a risk-free environment. The job of safety is to reduce risk as much as possible to protect both the employees and their employer. When done right, everyone gets to go home happy!

  2. Rayf
    March 3, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    I am a former OSHA enforcement officer, and I don’t share Todd’s view of the agency. They are unethical, conniving, and unnecessary. Truth be told, employers are more concerned about their e-mods than their OSHA record. Quite frankly, OSHA fines are a mere afterthought following an industrial fatality when compared to the imminent increase in worker’s compensation rates. I view the OSHA Cowboy as an ugly reminder of how the U.S. government is out of control!! I can tell you from first-hand experience of the dishonesty of OSHA. Following an inspection that did not result in many citations, I was told by the District Manager to fabricate additional ones. When I told him I didn’t want to because it was neither right nor would I defend them in court, he became angry. I quit the next month. As inspectors, we were pressured to write so many citations each year of certain types (Willful, Serious, Other-Than-Serious, Regulatory). If our ratios didn’t meet expectations, we received a poor evaluation. This drove inspectors to cite employers for harmless offenses – the “gotcha” stuff found deep in the regulations that nobody pays attention to because they’re IRRELEVANT!!! But it doesn’t end there. Once the employer has survived the inspection, they have to spend time and money fighting these bogus citations to defend their honor. Honor…it is far too underrated in my opinion. Reputation and credibility are vital to business. Corporations that don’t take safety/health seriously won’t be able to attract intelligent hard-working employees, partnerships, customers, and they risk creating an environment of low morale and stale productivity. Obviously, if two companies are bidding for a job, the one with less overhead is more formidable, i.e., low worker’s comp rates. And what kind of signals does an employer send to their employees in following health and safety rules because OSHA may be looming in the shadows rather than to convey their endeavors stem from concern for the well-being of their employees. Surely the staff are able to detect the difference, and react accordingly. So take workplace health and safety seriously because it is the smart and sensible thing to do. For the record, I am skeptical of anyone who praises such agencies as OSHA, EPA, or IRS because they probably make their living from them one way or another…oops…guess that’s you, Todd.

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