Reading Between the Lines in OSHA Stories

A recent Cal/OSHA investigation into American Reclamation, Inc. demonstrates once again that within every story about OSHA violations, there is a cautionary tale for other employers. But in this case, it’s not just the obvious safety program shortcomings for which the company was cited that are of interest. There are two troubling trends that you can discover upon closer reading.

There’s Enough Blame to Go Around

It wasn’t just the parent company and its subsidiary that were held liable for these citations. The staffing agency that provided workers comp and payroll services was also implicated. No details are given regarding the exact nature of the staffing firm’s culpability. However, the fact that they are treated as co-employers at all does raise some questions for public agencies that regularly hire temp workers for certain tasks or positions. If a temporary employee is coming to your organization from a staffing agency, they should always go through the same safety training as your full time employees. Cal/OSHA isn’t being shy about spreading liability around, so passing the buck to anyone else is not an option.

Employees Don’t Have to Report Directly to OSHA

It appears that the “whistle-blowing” that led to an OSHA inspection was initiated by an advocacy group that employees turned to seeking advice about workplace safety concerns. This type of intervention by watchdog organizations is likely to become more common as word of mouth spreads faster than ever before. According to a recent National Business Ethics Survey, 42% of active social networkers feel it is appropriate to blog or tweet negative content about their company. These days, it’s easy to make contact with a substantial number of workers from the same company since so many people list their place of employment on FaceBook or other social media profiles. Smart advocacy groups will no doubt take advantage of this ease of networking to gather evidence and information about workplace violations and call out more and more employers for poor safety control practices.

The only way to ensure your company is protected from the risk of Cal/OSHA citations is by taking complete responsibility for your safety program. A consulting firm that specializes in modern workplace safety can help you navigate the changing technology landscape that puts employers at ever-increasing risk for inspections based on worker complaints.