How long is it going to be before people figure out that compliance with regulations, standards incorporated by reference, manufacturer’s instructions, etc., are not just some neat safety suggestions to follow if you can manage it, they are the law.
Here’s how it works. Regulations, and all the rules they reference, are mandatory. That means there is no discussion, negotiation, or choice. That is why they are strewn with words like shall and must and other words that do not leave a lot to the imagination or room for interpretation.
Personally, I am up to here (the area between my upper lip and nose) with hearing phrases like, “we can’t do that” or “that’s not realistic” after I tell some “safety” manager that they need to evaluate a forklift or aerial lift operators on similar types of equipment to what they will operate. I actually had a regional safety manager say to me in response to a requirement that I was shocked he did not have any knowledge of, “That’s not what I want to hear and we don’t want to do that.” I swear, those very words. I could almost laugh out loud (if it weren’t so sad) when I hear those kinds of remarks and I so want to say something like, “be sure to mention that at the Coroner’s inquest and the litigation that follows, I’m sure it will be quite helpful.”
Naturally, I would never be so sardonic but what is it about the word mandatory that people do not understand? Sure compliance can be terribly inconvenient, heck it can be a downright bear, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that it must be done. As a training provider, I try to make it clear that I am not only there to inform but to assist. However, at the end of the day OSHA is not going to come to me or my company for explanations but to the employer. Even if by some black magic someone got me to say “yeah your right, you don’t need to conduct site/equipment specific training with your operators” it still wouldn’t matter from OSHA’s perspective (although a lawyer could probably prove negligence), they would still blame the employer since it was they that enlisted the services of an incompetent/negligent trainer.
Speaking of lawyers, just for fun, (there’s two words you don’t see put together often) let’s say the non-compliant party gets by OSHA, they probably wouldn’t but let’s imagine. Well, now there are possible civil (or criminal) proceedings to deal with outside the realm of occupational safety and health law, very serious, time consuming and expensive stuff.even if you win!
Regardless of what anyone tells you, responsibility cannot be delegated and mandatory requirements must be fulfilled, period. One can always delegate their duty, but never their responsibility. Since employers are responsible for regulatory compliance and all the mandatory (man-duh-tor-ee) elements incorporated therein, it is they that must face the music when there’s a problem, not whoever they delegated the task to.
Is it fair that an employer who tries to act in a responsible manner but engages the services of a negligent provider gets burned? Heavens no! But that’s the way it is and you can bet that OSHA is not going to give a rodent’s derriere about that or anyone’s opinion on what is “realistic” or conveniently do-able with respect to regulations, so suck it up and deal with it.
To coin a popular phrase used in the safety and health biz, ‘If you think compliance is tough, try an accident.’ If that doesn’t convince you, try driving over to the victim’s house to tell the family that their loved one isn’t coming home. Now that’s a tough one.
Director of Training
IVES Training Group
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