Last Week, Sandy Smith, Editor in Chief of EHS Magazine, interviewed me for two articles she prepared today on the continued difficulties presented as employers struggle to rely on leading indicators to manage safety rather than relying on workplace injury data – “lagging indicators.” I enjoyed the interview because Sandy knows her stuff, and EHS Magazine is committed to making a difference in the safety culture. Review my following points, and then enjoy her two articles, Leading and Lagging Indicators and OSHA and “Survey Offers a Glimpse Into the Safety Practices of General Contractors.” I will talk on additional findings from our F & P Survey in future articles and posts from different perspectives and focusing on different aspects of the subject… and there certainly are plenty of issues and action points! Thanks for your interest in these important subjects.
- At the beginning of 2013, employers widely accepted the following statements as an accurate summary of the status of using workplace injury and illness data to manage safety processes…
- OSHA is opposed to Safety Incentive Programs which are based on injury and illness rates because they believe that such programs discourage employees from reporting workplace injuries.
- After dozens of six-figure awards, OSHA has made it clear that it views discipline for violating safety rules as often being a pretext for retaliation against employees who reported workplace injuries.
- Simultaneously, employers are concerned about of customers who evaluate contractor safety performance based on workplace injury rates, which focus on failures (“lagging indicators”) rather than the “leading indicators” which predict the effectiveness of safety programs.
- Both OSHA and many experienced employers agree that employers should increasingly focus on “leading indicators” and “behavioral” factors that may prevent accidents.
- Unfortunately, despite this belief, most employers, to some extent continue to evaluate safety programs based on injuries (“rate-driven”) and/or base incentives on injury rates.
- Part of the problem is that there is no consensus as to which leading indicators should consistently be evaluated.
I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues.
Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession.
I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors.
I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values.
Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral.
As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC