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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

Posts in discipline and discharge.

I’m on my 16 hour flight back from South Africa to Atlanta and processing my experiences. Surely such a varied and unusual adventure will provide me with fodder for some philosophical musings which lead to my usual practical “Action Points” on safety and employment law.

This post is personal, and as the introduction to DVD's state ... this post does not reflect the views of FP, etc. It's a labor of love, and also a reflection of my conviction that safety is inextricably intertwined with broader HR issues.

I’m typed this while flying across the Atlantic to South Africa and Zimbabwe three nights ago. That’s not a relevant fact to this post … I just wanted to type the phrase. My normal post would start out, “I’m cooling my heels in the $%#! Newark Airport.” Pretty prosaic stuff.

Don’t get me wrong. I make a handsome living in part because common sense is anything but common. However, I like to prevent labor and employment problems, and I’d do anything to reduce the number of workplace deaths, so I chew on this question a great deal … like now as I continue on my 16 hour flight fueled by a surprisingly good Bordeaux. I’ll leave the thoughtful psychological, sociological and anthropological analysis to more thoughtful people than me. I’ll settle for just throwing out some examples.

Recently, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced what many mine operators and independent contractors have experienced for the past several years - a heightened focus on, and tremendous increase in, the number of discrimination complaints filed by MSHA. In fact, MSHA has tripled the number of temporary reinstatement requests and nearly doubled the number of discrimination complaints it filed over a three year period.

An effective safety process requires consistent discipline to support other company safety efforts, but it doesn’t happen.

OSHA is aggressively suing employers for allegedly using safety rules to terminate employees for reporting workplace injuries. And in fact, it often turns out that almost the only employees terminated for safety violations were those terminated for unsafe behavior after an injury. Why? The employer was sloppy about disciplining employees for unsafe behavior, and the only time the employers “caught” employees acting unsafely was… investigating the injury.

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