OSHA Compliance

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The Unveiling of a New OSHA, and It’s About Time

Posted by Gary Finch on July 1, 2017

  There was a five-year period from 1989 to 1994 that OSHA was active with inspections in the funeral industry. This was understandable as OSHA enacted the hazard communications (MSDS) and formaldehyde (monitoring) standards in 1988 and the bloodborne pathogen (hepatitis B) standard in 1991. Starting in 1995, funeral home inspection activity dropped significantly in most states.

  It dropped again in 2010 when President Bush established a system where random inspections would be limited to industries with the highest accident and injury rates. Relief was immediate in states under federal OSHA but slower in states that operated their own enforcement programs. It has been particularly slow in North Carolina and Virginia where enforcement was tricked up to allow unnecessary frequent inspection activity.

  I always felt like this was abusive to the funeral industry in those states and a waste of time for state inspectors. Certainly, there were other industries with higher accident rates that were ignored so their inspectors could allocate time for funeral home inspections mandated by their state authority. It always ends up with the targeted industries losing respect for OSHA and the agency having few accomplishments to show for their effort.

  Why bother to inspect an insurance office or funeral home when you have a ship builder and a steel plant just down the road. To what greater good does it serve? I think very little. We are now on the verge of another transitionary period as unnecessary regulations are being reviewed and proposed for elimination. It cannot happen soon enough for me.

  Let the period of a lean but even more meaningful OSHA begin. For funeral homes, it should reduce inspections to cases where employees file complaints. Even in those inspections, violations will focus on firms being required to institute corrections. Financial penalties will be reserved for the most egregious violators. For reasons I have never understood, employee complaints are rare in our industry. This is true even when employers are lapse in conducting required initial and annual safety training.

  I am hoping that funeral home employers respond with more meaningful compliance. It is time for small independent family firms (so prevalent in our industry) to offer new employee safety training before those new employees are exposed to blood and other hazards. SCI and other conglomerates have been doing this for a decade. They are far more aware of liabilities when disgruntled employees file mental anguish suits over their failure to meet minimum safety training guidelines.

  The new era allows me to develop training that is more in-sync with real workplace safety issues and less bureaucratic. When safety officers call with questions, I hope to give an answer that contains less ifs, ands, and buts. This will start to show with 2018 training. All hail the new OSHA. Now there is even less excuse for non-compliance.


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