Can a focus on worker safety be more profitable to a company in the long run? I believe it can.
A safer workplace can result in cost savings like not being fined by OSHA or have to take the time and energy for employees to defend a business against an OSHA investigation. In addition, it makes economic sense to have healthy employees who aren’t injured, resulting in fewer workers’ compensation claims. Workers will also feel more confident in going to work where an employer has a focus on safety instead of having an employer that doesn’t have proper machine guards in place or uses some of the tactics found in this investigation.
OSHA recently reported a news release about a Norfolk, Nebraska, company named MP Global Products, LLP, which allegedly has problems providing a safe workplace.
A tragic workplace incident in March prompted the OSHA investigation when a temporary employee endured his fingers being amputated while working. The investigation itself led to additional safety issues, resulting in “two willful, 22 serious and one other-than-serious safety violations carrying proposed penalties of $244,000,” according to the news release. The company also ended up in the agency’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program as a result of the inspection.
“A Norfolk flooring materials company tried to hide hazardous machines from federal inspectors and threatened to fire employees who complained about unsafe working conditions during an investigation into why a 65-year-old temporary worker suffered the amputation of one finger and severe damage to another when his left hand was caught as he operated a machine.
U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors found the man’s employer, MP Global Products LLC, attempted to conceal an entire production line from them. Inspectors found numerous machines lacked safety guards that exposed workers to amputation injuries on that line and throughout the facility. Workers also told investigators the company threatened to fire those who told inspectors about their safety concerns.”
Here’s another version of the same incident. This time the article was reported on an insurance-industry website.
“MP Global shut down an entire production line, turned the lights off and herded employees into the back room where they were instructed to remain quiet during OSHA’s inspection. This was a willful attempt to prevent inspectors from discovering numerous machine safety violations in the plant,” said Jeff Funke, OSHA’s area director in Omaha. “Knowingly requiring workers to operate unsafe machinery and threatening their jobs for reporting unsafe work practices are illegal and shameful activities. MP Global needs to immediately correct the multiple machine hazards in its facility.”
In this case, a worker’s injury was the catalyst for the OSHA investigation and inspection. Manufacturers may not follow safety protocols to maximize profits, but that profit is often at the worker’s expense, resulting in safety problems and even worker injuries. It is frustrating and just plain wrong when profits are being valued above worker safety, in addition to this example where employers threatened workers’ jobs for wanting a safe environment and reporting concerns.
I hope that this business now understands the importance of a safe workplace that benefits both employees and profits.
“To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Omaha Area Office at 402-553-0171,” according to the OSHA news release.