Saturday, September 04, 2004

Aloha OSHA?

Just over a year ago, I wrote a story about Hawaii Republican governor Linda Lingle's vision of Hawaii OSHA, as related in a speech to the Hawaii Camber of Commerce:
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.
Well Lingle's dream may be coming true and even federal OSHA is (or was) a bit concerned.

First, HIOSH seems to be missing a few staff positions:
Of particular concern are 26 staff vacancies that include positions such as safety and health inspectors in the Hawaii Occupational Safety and Health division. The division would have 71 employees if fully staffed.
Hmm, let's see...carry the one....Counting on my fingers, I'd say their staffing level is down by over a third...which is not too kosher for a state OSHA plan that is required to be "just as effective as" federal OSHA. If I was a worker in Hawaii, I might be concerned.
It also initially worried Frank Strasheim, OSHA's Region 9 administrator, who oversees Hawaii. He and Alan Traenkner, OSHA's regional director of analysis and evaluation, have made several visits to Gov. Linda Lingle and Befitel regarding the state plan.

"When the governor first told me 'we are not doing enforcement' I was really concerned," Strasheim told PBN.
I should hope so.

But Strasheim has apparently gotten the word from Washington that Lingle's emphasis on being nice, versus actually enforcing the law, is a good thing.
Strasheim now says he likes the direction the state is going as long as Hawaii can walk the line between being friendly to businesses when they do the right thing and enforcing citations and penalties when they fail to meet standards.
Not everyone in Hawaii is happy, however.
Jim Peck, an occupational safety and health consultant with Work Comp Hawaii, a consulting company, is unsure whether the state is maintaining the balance. He says the pendulum has swung too far toward business friendliness.

"When HIOSH says it's trying to be friendly to business, companies get the message that they won't be cited," Peck said.
And here's a surprise:
Mary Silva, [safety officer for Castle & Cooke], who as the president of the Hawaii chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers serves on HIOSH's advisory committee, added that companies aren't concerned about the low staffing levels.

"What employer would want to have more inspectors out there?" she asked. "It's counterproductive to us. The bottom line is, employers are responsible for safety of employees -- it's not HIOSH."
Yeah, and drivers are responsible for the driving safely, and people are responsible for not robbing banks and shooting I shouldn't be concerned if my police department was operating at only two-thirds capacity.