In 1980, OSHA commissioned a series of short films about worker safety. In 1981, legend has it, incoming OSHA Administrator Thorne Auchter recalled and destroyed most copies of the films.
However, according to archive.org, some “renegade union officials” refused to return their copies. Several years ago, a union safety and health official made the three films available for digitizing, and now the world can see what Thorne Auchter didn’t want it to see.
The three films – “The Story of OSHA,” “Worker to Worker” and “Can’t Take No More” – emphasize that workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace, and include interviews with sick and injured workers as well as OSHA officials, union leaders and company managers. One interview with an industrial lab worker – stricken with leukemia from exposure to benzene – is particularly powerful.
Given that President Reagan had promised to get big government off industry’s back – and that the business community considered OSHA to be a principal source of onerous government regulation – it’s not surprising that Auchter tried to suppress these three films. In “The Story of OSHA,” an OSHA area director reminds viewers that “the Congress decided as a matter of national policy that it’s more appropriate to place the cost of protection on the employers who give rise to the exposure in the first place than to depend upon society to bear the cost of injury and illness.”
Another area director puts things in simpler terms:
“As an employee, you have a responsibility to your employer to give them an honest day’s work and to make money for your employer. That’s what you’re paid for. By the same token, that employer has a responsibility not only to give you a salary but [also] to ensure sure you don’t get killed on the job. It’s his premises. It’s his responsibility. Nobody else’s.”
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