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‘Embrace’ safety and health as a core value, OSHA’s Doug Parker says during Occupational Keynote

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Employers and workers should “embrace” safety and health as a core value, OSHA administrator Doug Parker told attendees of the Occupational Keynote on Tuesday during the 2022 NSC Safety Congress & Expo at the San Diego Convention Center.

“When we think about what really matters to us, what’s most important in our lives is our health and the health and safety of our family and loved ones,” Parker said. “This is an essential core value that we all aspire to uphold, and yet, far too often this doesn’t translate in how people plan, supervise and perform work. And tragedy ensues.”

The OSHA leader – the first to appear at the annual National Safety Council event since 2016 – told an illustrating story about him talking with a group of employers while in his previous job as chief of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The produce harvesters told him they wanted to comply with Cal/OSHA’s heat standard but were struggling with “logistical challenges” in providing shade structures at multiple jobsites and cool drinking water throughout the day.

Parker asked an admittedly blunt question: Do you run out of boxes to gather lettuce or do you run out of fuel for your tractors? “Of course, the answer was no,” he said. “It was just a simple example of the desire to comply, but not treating [safety and health] as a core business function, not treating it as essential.”

He thanked the attendees for their commitment to saving lives, preventing debilitating injuries and ensuring workers aren’t stricken with occupational diseases. But he noted that “we can and must do better.”

Parker highlighted the 4,764 workers who died in 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the estimated 2.7 million injured workers. “These numbers are more than statistics. They represent people whose lives are changed forever.”

– Alan Ferguson, reporting from San Diego