Monday, November 15, 2004

What's Henshaw Got Against A Little Violence?

Wat the hell is wrong with OSHA Administrator John Henshaw?

Wait, not all at once. Let me rephrase that. Why, after all of these years, after not one, but two published OSHA guidelines on preventing workplace violence (for health care workers and for late night retail workers) in addition to numerous fact sheets, after tons of literature describing steps employers can take to prevent workplace assaults -- How can he still dismiss workers killed by workplace violence as not legitimate workplace fatalities?

This is what he said in a recent speech to the Greater St. Louis Safety and Health Conference after admitting that workplace fatalities rose last year:

Let's unpack the numbers a little further. In 2002, we had the largest percentage drop in fatalities and the fatality rate since the census of fatalities began. In 2003, there were 61 MORE deaths from assaults and violence and 114 MORE deaths among the self-employed than in 2002. If you subtracted these deaths -- among workers OSHA doesn't cover and related to third party violence -- then there is a good decline in fatalities. But even that explanation is not good enough. We must do better.
Why doesn't a mental health worker in an understaffed mental institution count as a legitimate workplace fatality? Or a all-night convenience store employee shot during a robbery at 3:00 a.m. Or a taxi driver? Hey, maybe we should subtract falls on consruction sites too. They're probably the workers' own fault anyway.

Once upon a time, federal OSHA used to cite employers for failure to protect employees from workplace assaults. CalOSHA still does.

Personally, I think Henshaw should sit down at his keyboard and write a letter of apology to the families of each of the 631 workers who died as a result of workplace assaults in 2003.

He should be ashamed.