Washington's Inspectors, Programs Get High Marks from Employers

Inspectors from the Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) often arrive at a workplace unannounced to conduct a safety investigation prompted by a worker complaint or workplace injuries.

Employers are rarely happy to see them, but a recent customer survey finds that most employers give L&I relatively high marks for safety and health inspections and consultations.

The Gilmore Research Group of Seattle surveyed 600 employers who received services between October 2001 and September 2002 from L&I's WISHA (Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act) program. Of those who had been subject to compliance inspections, 83 percent responded positively to the services received by inspectors.

Additionally, 97 percent of employers who used WISHA's consultation services gave the agency high marks. In those instances, the employer invites an L&I representative into the workplace to consult on safety and health issues.

Respondents who were not completely satisfied frequently mentioned the lack of industry knowledge or depth of knowledge about a particular law.

"I'm very pleased to see such positive responses from the employer community to the way WISHA consultants and inspectors are doing their jobs," said L&I Director Paul Trause. "We'll be working hard to ensure that we continue this level of quality service and to improve in the areas where our staff may need more training."

There are some WISHA "customers" who might need more convincing that the agency is doing a good job. In the verbatim section of the report, one survey participant commented, "I had a job I needed to do and I wanted to get a consultation to make sure I was doing everything right. After I had a consultation, WISHA showed up and gave me a $4,000 fine."

Another employer complained: "We called them in here to make sure we were doing stuff right but it turned into what I would call a witch hunt. They told us everything was strictly confidential, but about a month later, they told us they had to release the information."

While few of the comments offered glowing praise, some were amusing:

  • "Their observations of specific job positions. Mainly, they were as perplexed as we were about how to meet the OSHA ruling."
  • "The certain inspector I had out there was smoking a lot. He sat out there and smoked right in my job shack." And could this be the same inspector? "He kept on smoking cigars but otherwise it was a good consult."
  • "It wasn't overwhelmingly great, but there is a difference between very satisfied and somewhat satisfied [choices on the survey]. Very satisfied would be, like, elated, which I was not. I was just satisfied, like when I've finished a meal."

The complete survey is online at www.lni.wa.gov/wisha/pdf/GilmoreWishaSurvey7-3-03.pdf.

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