Monday, July 21, 2003

Suspicious Rumblings in Hawaii.

We all know that the Republicans’ wildest dream is to transform OSHA from an enforcement agency into a consultation agency where they would just give advice to employers instead of acting like the Gestapo and (gasp) actually penalizing them when they break the law.

Well, Hawaii Republican Governor Linda Lingle may be a dream come true for George Bush and Elaine Chao. The Honolulu Star Bulletin reported that Lingle had told the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii that:
HIOSH (Hawaii OSHA) will soon send warning letters to businesses, without citations, and will no longer be an enforcement agency, but instead become a "consultation" agency, Lingle said.
If that quote is true, it would mean that Hawaii, a state-plan state that runs its own OSHA, would be handing enforcement back to the federal government. All state plans are required to be “at least as effective as” federal OSHA, which means that they actually have to enforce the law, not just hand out good advice and hope everyone follows it.

What set Lingle off? According to the Star Bulletin,
"There was a case," Lingle said, "where a moving company was cited for moving a 50-pound box. A moving company! That's what they do, move!"
Yeah, and a window washing company washes windows. Does that mean that OSHA shouldn’t cite the employer if a worker falls to his death while washing a window? “But they’re a window washing company. That’s what they do, wash windows!” “But they’re a trenching company. That’s what they do, dig trenches!”

Well, to quote the old Saturday Night Live line (for those of you old enough to remember): “Linda, You ignorant slut!”

There are safe ways to wash windows and unsafe ways. There are safe ways to dig trenches and unsafe ways. And there are safe ways to lift boxes and unsafe ways.

Anyway, Lingle's administration
is about "creating quality jobs," by passing good laws, repealing or vetoing bad ones, and working administratively to create a better environment for Hawaii businesses.

"We want a safe workplace," Lingle said. "But that's the same thing you want. In the past HIOSH had the attitude that they want a safe workplace, and you don't."
No, it's not that you don't want a safe workplace. You just don't want to pay for a safe workplace. Quality jobs? Ugh!

Anyway, this may, in fact, just be a Republican wet dream. A couple of days later, the Star Tribune reported another version of Lingle’s speech
Instead of issuing a no-fine citation on the first violation, creating a mandatory "repeated offender" fine on any subsequent violations, the administration plans to issue warning letters for minor infractions, she said.

"We want to become known as a consultation agency rather than an enforcement agency in order to ensure workplace safety," Lingle said. "We think it's a better approach."
What she's actually going to do with HIOSHA is not clear. But what she wants to do is crystal clear. The same thing that the current regime here in Washington wants – an agency that will just give out friendly warnings instead of citations; slaps on the wrist instead of fines. For now they won’t because they can’t without major changes in the law that would reveal what they're really up to.

But don’t think that’s not what they’re planning. Download an illegal song off the internet or try to sell a bong and you’ll earn the wrath of John Ashcroft, fines and jail time, but injure or kill workers? Tsk, tsk. No supper for you tonite.

Stay tuned and we'll keep you posted. Any Hawaiian readers out there who can fill us in? Or am I going to have to come on out there and find out for myself?