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What Should the Presidential Candidates Do to Keep the Workplace Safe?

Oct. 5, 2020
With the U.S. Presidential elections coming up, the nation’s safety leaders weigh in on the topics of most concern to them.

This month, I’m turning this column over to you. Every year when we conduct our National Safety Survey, we ask our readers to weigh in on a number of topics of current interest, and with 2020 bringing the safety of the country—in fact, the whole world—front and center, we asked everyone who answered the survey the what they feel the next President of the United States should do in regards to occupational health and safety. As you would imagine, we got quite a diverse range of responses, and you’ll find a representative sampling below.

With the 2020 national elections in November, what do you feel the candidates need to focus on to ensure the health and safety of American workers?

● Allow businesses to make business decisions based on health and safety risk in their workplaces (avoid over-regulation).

● Mental health will be a key. There has been incredible stress for months now that has taken a toll on workers. It is as real as a fracture or laceration and has the ability to affect safety performance.

● Acknowledgment and support of the presence and needs of the rural agricultural community and businesses.

● Increase funding for health and safety resources and authorities.

● Getting Americans back to work in a safe and healthy environment.

● Bring in more EHS inspections and bring back environmental legislation that has been removed recently.

● Bring manufacturing back within the U.S. to ensure our essential products are safely manufactured within the United States. This will reinforce jobs.

● Ensure the Chemical Safety Board is recognized and continue to fund this important organization.

● Clearer OSHA guidance that is accessible without having to purchase ANSI and NFPA standards. This would make it easier for small companies to comply and participate.

● Clearing up the race issue as it permeates throughout society and in the workplace. Reforming the workers’ comp insurance industry. More field inspectors in places like meat packing plants.

● Developing a less punitive and more educational workforce safety model.

● Ease the burden of compliance on business by helping businesses get the proper training for staff members.

● Keep OSHA rules/regulations up to date and get rid of outdated ones.

● Education to improve health literacy and access to PPE, PTO and direct communication with government to help answer questions.

● Employer responsibilities to hold supervisors and employees accountable for following safety procedures and enforcement of those procedures, including termination for flagrant or repeat safety violations.

● Ensure that health and safety are the primary focus of companies, even as companies are reopening and trying to recoup lost time and production due to COVID-19.

● A vaccine would be nice.

● Expanding OSHA to enable more “safe at work” audits.

● Understand that the human workforce is not expendable. People are not merely “liabilities” for a company; they are assets that should be protected.

● Focus on the issues causing racial tension.

● Get government out of the way and let free enterprise, entrepreneurship and capitalism rebuild our industries.

● Funding enterprise zones and providing resources to small businesses.

● Keep the social distancing and PPE guidelines in place. Get PPE stockpiles replenished locally and nationally. Bring pharmaceutical manufacturing back to the U.S.

● Get people back to work safely.

● Global warming.

● Hire more competent OSHA compliance officers.

● Hold the course.

● Employee retention and hiring.

● Protect the environment and in particular water resources and the food supply.

● Focus on workplace safety. We are still losing too many people to workplace accidents every year.

● Continuing education, especially for younger/newer workers.

● I have no confidence that the government can make a positive impact on safety.

● It would be helpful to draw more attention to and support for EHS professionals. Rarely are they mentioned or thought of when speaking about any industry, even when a serious accident takes place. EHS professionals have a great deal of knowledge that not only saves workers’ lives but if used can affect cost, schedules and media attention on projects or industries.

● Providing grants and incentives to companies for safe work practices would be very helpful.

● Increase research and development in virology, create pandemic control centers, funding for pandemic management kits.

● Keep safety and health responsibilities grassroot and at local establishment levels—managing top-down has limited effect.

● Listen to the scientific community.

● Elimination of state plans that are less effective than CAL/OSHA.

● Our elected representatives need to know, understand and live the slogan: “Occupational health and safety comes first, no matter what.”

● Placing a much higher emphasis on preparedness.

● Have a comprehensive emergency preparedness/outbreak plan for if and when this happens again. Don’t leave it up to states when it comes to matters of national safety and security.

● Policies that are intended to help people and workers, not just companies. Stop eliminating regulations that favor political allies and large corporations.

● Psychological/social safety in the workplace, with a commitment to zero tolerance for racism.

● Reducing the number of worker fatalities that occur each day.

● Unify the cause towards a “zero” incident rating. Hold companies at fault accountable and recognize those that are above the expected ratings.

● Based on past history, the politicians don’t have a clue.

● Health and safety need to be tactical and just as important as the economy.

We plan to share this column—and your insights—with the campaigns of both President Trump and Vice President Biden. Let’s hope they’re listening.

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