On Safety

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Does ‘shaming’ employers work?

May 15, 2015

A duct manufacturer has been slammed with nearly $1 million in OSHA fines, the agency recently announced in a press release. Does that matter to you?

I ask because “shaming” is one of the tools OSHA uses to encourage employers to implement safe working environments. In the case I mentioned above, OSHA alleges that the Pennsylvania employer failed to keep workers safe and exposed them to a variety of hazards that resulted in lacerated, crushed, fractured, dislocated and amputated fingers.

The main vehicle for shaming employers is press releases and many media organizations subsequently report on them. OSHA’s recent proposed fines to the duct manufacturer – totaling $822,000 – have been covered by several media outlets.

“In some cases, ‘regulation by shaming’ may be the most effective means for OSHA to encourage elimination of life-threatening hazards and we will not hesitate to publicize the names of violators, especially when their actions place the safety and health of workers in danger,” OSHA administrator David Michaels said in his 2010 vision statement.

The agency under the Obama administration has increased its use of press releases, and OSHA officials believe doing so is helping improve safety. But what do you think? Does “regulation by shaming” positively change the behavior of some employers, or do press releases and news coverage merely become a type of “Scarlet Letter” with which employers are unfairly burdened? Let me know in the comments below.

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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