A Snarky Guide to the Eclipse, Worker Safety and a Homage to The Day of the Triffids

 

Tomorrow is the much-awaited Eclipse and employers are beginning to worry that they may not have taken all appropriate steps to protect their employees. Shockingly, OSHA does not maintain a Workplace Eclipse Safety Standard. Accordingly, employers should analyze the hazards presented by an Eclipse as they would any other hazard at the workplace. Even if spiders, snakes and poison ivy are universal, employers nonetheless protect their employees from these hazards when present in the workplace.

  1. Assume that employees will not exercise common sense and use good judgment. As an example, the most common reaction of a diner when told that their plate is “very hot,” is to … you guessed it …. Touch said hot plate.
  2. Education is the essential first step for every employer. Every news outlet in the free world is talking about Eclipse safety, but do not assume that your employees read the omnipresent recommendations. Below are just a few decent sources:

 

3. Determine positions and job tasks that may reasonably be exposed to the hazard. Drivers and construction workers outside, servers at rooftop lounges, etc.

4. Determine the seriousness of the exposure and appropriate responses.

5. Educate them regarding the hazards present at your worksite or with their jobs and provide instruction and/or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

  • Maybe instruct the employees to go inside and don’t look at the darned Eclipse during the critical periods?
  • Provide appropriate glasses? This decision may be a philosophical decision rather than a safety decision. I don’t believe that you want employees working, driving, or operating equipment while wearing special glasses.
  • And if you do decide to provide special glasses, make sure that anything you provide as an employer is absolutely properly certified and approved. Reports are rife about inadequate or non-certified glasses making an appearance. From the August 18 Athens Banner Herald:

Some schools canceling classes or keeping pupils inside due to non-certified eclipse glasses

  • And while there are reportedly safe homemade/jury rigged ways to watch the Eclipse. Employers don’t need to recommend them.
  • Personally, the Pinprick Method or a homemade Camera Obscura sound pretty cool to me, but not as an employer recommendation.

6. NOTE: Filmmakers, news crews and others have a higher duty because their work may involve observing, studying or filming the event. Of course, these groups are better equipped in terms of equipment and special expertise, but should not become casual or sloppy. As an analogy, more experienced highly skilled construction workers fall to their deaths each year than inexperienced rookies. Superior knowledge and frequent exposure breeds contempt. Don’t assume that scientists and photographers do not need to be reminded to NOT take short cuts.

The Day of the Triffids.

When I was 12, I read John Wyndam’s 1951 groundbreaking sci-fi book, The Day of the Triffids, which scarred me for life with regard to Eclipses and other fun viewable solar displays. Don’t confuse the thoughtful sci-fi thriller book with the entertaining but not nearly as good 1962 movie.

In this chilling book, everyone who wakes up the day after watching an amazing solar display is – you guessed it – blind. This would be bad enough, but it seems that some years before, scientists discovered and began improving these nasty plants, which produced highly useful products, but also grew to about six to ten feet high, shuffled about, and had a deadly stinger with which they could strike prey from six or seven feet away. Oh. And they were nice to look at – this conversation was presumably overheard at a local botanical garden: “look dear at that colorful and beautiful death dealing flora from the bowels of hell! Can we get one for our garden so that baby Floyd can play in its colorful shade? Lowes has them on sale!”

So, pretty soon, acres were devoted to cultivation of Triffids or to charming city parks and gardens. Stingers were regularly trimmed off and the wondering plants were chained to steel spikes driven into the ground. What could possibly go wrong! Yep; nothing accept a worldwide instantaneous plague of blindness, thus guaranteeing that the Triffids get free, grow back their stingers and become the apex predators. Since they are plants, reproduction is easy and apparently the critters had decidedly crappy attitudes once they formed large freely roaming murderous hordes.

I may overcome my irrational fear of solar displays and enjoy tomorrow’s display … or I may hide in the basement huddled with firearms, MREs and cans of Roundup. We’ll see.

 

Howard

 

About mavity2012

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
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One Response to A Snarky Guide to the Eclipse, Worker Safety and a Homage to The Day of the Triffids

  1. Jeff Romine says:

    I like it!

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