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Never Let A Serious Crisis Go To Waste

So said Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago and former Chief of Staff to President Obama. It’s a bit of wisdom Cal/OSHA should take to heart these days.

Well, it may be a stretch to say Cal/OSHA is in a serious crisis, but it certainly is challenged. Every week seems to bring news of someone else leaving. And the talent is draining from every part of the organization – Enforcement, Research & Standards, Consultation, Legal, you name it. The reasons are multiple, but the reasons are not as important as the effect this exodus is having on Cal/OSHA.

The most obvious effect from our viewpoint is that many of those leaving had some experience in industry before they went to work for Cal/OSHA. They came to the job of enforcing Title 8 as a second career, bringing with them an understanding of the work methods, customs and practices, and best practices used in different industries, and how the regulations fit in. They could appreciate when an employer was doing a good job and recognize when one was shining an inspector on. They could explain what a seemingly ambiguous regulation means.

Unfortunately, for the most part these folks are being replaced by kids straight out of colleges and universities who have little “real world” experience. The results are predictable and frustrating for all concerned.

So here’s the opportunity hidden in this crisis: We know of employers in several industries – cabinetry, logging, sawmills, wineries, foundries, robotized warehouse operations, and heavy equipment fabrication to name a few – who would welcome the chance to work with Cal/OSHA’s new people, to familiarize them with their industries’ operations. All they would ask is that the Enforcement types be willing to check their guns at the door.

There are precedents for this sort of cooperation between Cal/OSHA and the “regulated community.” The roofing industry is one example. The collaboration with the Nisei Farmers’ League in heat illness training is another. Why not expand on that success?

Cal/OSHA, are you listening?

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