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Editor's Note

Editor's Note: 'Role call'

December 20, 2013

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The role of government in worker safety and health is a theme in all of this month’s feature articles. It’s the focus of the 2014 State of Safety, in which Senior Associate Editor Kyle W. Morrison explores the part OSHA has played in the downward trend of worker injuries and deaths. It’s part of Associate Editor Thomas J. Bukowski’s report on a recent forum, hosted by the National Transportation Safety Board, that discussed how (and if) the government can influence or regulate safety culture in the transportation industry. And it’s featured prominently in Associate Editor Ashley Johnson’s article on OSHA playing the role of partner as the agency teams with the oil and gas industry to explore ways to keep workers safe.

A recent poll on the Safety+Health website asked respondents what they believe OSHA’s primary role should be. I’m not surprised that most respondents to the poll said OSHA’s primary job should be a provider of compliance assistance and education. The editorial team knows from reader comments that when Hilda L. Solis was sworn in as secretary of labor in 2009, her “new sheriff in town” proclamation and promises to be tougher on enforcement did not sit well with many of you. However, many people who read this magazine do so precisely because they and their employers are far beyond needing threats to care about worker safety – and it has to be acknowledged that not all of this nation’s employers share that position.

The poll question was worded so that respondents could choose only one approach. (If “a combination of compliance assistance and enforcement” had been an option, it likely would have been an overwhelming choice, and we’d have a seriously boring pie chart and no comments to present.) OSHA, however, is allowed to choose a combination of approaches – and how it tries to achieve what it considers a good balance will always be interesting to watch.

The opinions expressed in “Editor’s Note” do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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