OROSHA Newsletter Looks at Supervisor Responsibilities

Oregon OSHA's Resource e-newsletter for December offers some useful guidance for supervisors. The newsletter is being redesigned for its next issue in February 2012.

Oregon OSHA's Resource e-enewsletter for December offers guidance to help supervisors promote safety. The newsletter also is being redesigned for its next issue in February 2012.

Agency Administrator Michael Wood's message on page three of the December issue discusses the lessons of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911 and the Hamlet, N.C., chicken processing plant fire in 1991. These two tragedies have more in common than the fact they resulted in multiple fatalities – 146 in the Triangle fire, 25 at Hamlet. Both involved locked exits, which Wood describes as "employers taking unacceptable risks with their lives of their workers in order to prevent pilferage."

"Both cases, I suppose, can be explained by treating the employers involved as being particularly irresponsible. Even evil," he adds. "But I fear it's not that simple. The reality is that we encounter employers who make such decisions with some regularity." The cases are not the norm, but "they are not exactly rare, either," he writes.

The truth is, the employers simply did not believe the worst could happen, Wood concludes. One of the Triangle employers was cited a few years later for locking exits at his new factory to prevent employee theft, proving that despite the 1911 tragedy, "the risk of his workers being killed was still less real to him that the risk of losing money to pilferage," he writes, concluding, "I don't know if we can ever get through to everyone. But I know we cannot give up. And I know the job is not yet done."

A feature article in the issue by Melanie Mesaros describes the steps General Sheet Metal uses to ensure supervisors, and all workers, work safely at every job site. The company has participated in the Oregon OSHA Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program for the past three years, according to her article.

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