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ASSE: OSHA's Role is Good Cop, Says Foulke

OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke today compared OSHA to "the good cop on the corner" you can ask for directions.

Foulke, speaking to a large lunchtime crowd at the American Society of Safety Engineers' Professional Development Conference in Seattle on June 12, noted his 25 years as an attorney practicing labor law, saying, "I care about workplace safety and health."

I've probably handled more workplace fatality investigations than any other labor law attorney in the country," Foulke revealed. "I've seen the devastating effect fatalities have not only on the family of the employee but the devastating effect fatalities have on the company ... on employees... on the community."

He said that as an attorney, he had recommended to his clients employers that they visit OSHA's Web site, noting, "there's a lot of great information there," including compliance assistance advice, training materials and other useful workplace health and safety tools.

Still, "It's hard to get people to go there," Foulke admitted from his own experience. "I'd tell clients to go there and they'd tell me, 'I can't do that ... then they'll [OSHA] know where I am.'"

Although he laughed at the memory, Foulke said that while OSHA's image has "drastically improved" over the past few years, "some employers still don't trust OSHA. They are probably the same employers who don't have comprehensive safety and health programs."

OSHA, said Foulke, should be perceived as the good neighborhood cop on the corner, the one who provides directions and advice to people needing assistance. At the same time, he added, that "good" cop will hand you a ticket if you run a red light.

We're here to help you, but if you ignore our help ... you're going to get a ticket if you run that red light," said Foulke.

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