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OSHA listening session: Make safety a ‘value that goes beyond OSHA compliance’

OSHA Directorate of Standards and Guidance Director Andrew Levinson, agency administrator Doug Parker and deputy assistant secretary Jim Frederick moderate a June 14 listening session on safety as a core workplace value.

Washington — Making safety a core workplace value means “going back to the basics and saying this is an individual right,” health care safety executive Luis Colado says.

Speaking during a June 14 OSHA listening session, Colado added that he often sees employers tout occupational safety as a benefit of employment, rather than a right. He wants that to change. “You have the right to be safe regardless of who you work for, where and what you’re doing at work. I think it’s centering our message around that.”

Multiple safety experts joined Colado in a discussion of the role of messaging – and action – in changing safety behavior and influencing workplace culture.

“Safety isn’t just an initiative. It’s not a slogan,” AFL-CIO safety and health specialist M.K. Fletcher said. “It really has to be something that’s integrated throughout every single part of work; otherwise, it’s just more of an afterthought if it doesn’t have that true integration.”

Added Jennifer McNelly, CEO of the American Society of Safety Professionals: “You can put really good words on a website. That doesn’t necessarily mean modeling happens where it creates that psychological safety for everybody to bring forward concerns. So it’s the actions at every level that then demonstrate the value of what that means.”

Leadership can help by modeling good safety practices. “A lot of what we can do moving forward is to make sure that not only are we setting expectations for that frontline employee to wear those safety glasses, but also their leader,” Colado said. “As a leader, what can you do to encourage, and to facilitate this individual being hazard-free in the workplace?”

A trio of OSHA officials – administrator Doug Parker, deputy assistant secretary Jim Frederick and Directorate of Standards and Guidance Director Andrew Levinson – moderated the discussion. Parker called the listening session the beginning of an agency “engagement” to “work toward continuous improvement in our communication with the public and with stakeholders.”

Levinson said about 30 listening sessions within federal OSHA and the agency’s 10 regional offices have taken place or been scheduled. He said OSHA wants safety to become a worldview – something people want to do “because it’s important for their workers, for the workplace, for the relationships, for the respect and trust that goes on between all employers and their workers.”

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