Thursday, December 09, 2004

Resignation of OSHA Director

OSHA Director John Henshaw announced his resignation yesterday. As usual with health and safety matters, Confined Space has the details. One sentence in Jordan's post there struck a chord with me when he discussed Henshaw's (non) accomplishements at OSHA:
...basically the only thing he did was create alliance after alliance, set vague priorities like "advancing the dialogue of safety and health," and produce empty slogans like "safety pays." (my emphasis)
Here's the question: What if in some instances safety didn't "pay"? What if it turned out, after considering the cost of lawsuits, workers comp, bad publicity and a bad conscience, it didn't "pay" to prevent someone's fingers from being cut off by a badly designed table saw? Does that mean we shouldn't try to prevent it anyway? This is a self-answering question, I hope (maybe not). These slogans ratify a cost-benefit approach, so we should use them bearing that in mind. Do we want to do that? That's a real question. If "yes", under what circumstances? If "no", under what circumstances?