I would like to respond to the comments of Geoff Collins and George Ebert made on Page 18 of the Sept. 29 issue concerning the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. I have been on both sides of the issue, first as an operations manager for a $10 million-a-year-in-sales molder and then as an injured employee for the same company.
OSHA is not a Gestapo agency as Mr. Collins and Mr. Ebert put it. Over the years many limits have been placed on the inspectors, to the point that about all they really do is go in and inspect common equipment used throughout many industries — and, of course, perform documentation.
They are not allowed to interrupt, impede or closely inspect production equipment that is in operation. In general they walk through and look for obvious and common safety violations.
As for the fine that was issued by OSHA for the very few safety concerns at Spears Caney Inc., OSHA has an appeal process that can be used to protest the fines. If used properly, by basing the protest on the fact that Spears Caney is a safe molder and the money would be spent to improve safety or training, you will almost always reduce or eliminate the fine. This doesn't sound like Gestapo actions to me at all.
For every molder or company like Spears Caney Inc. there are five molders that have little concern for the safety of their employees. These are the real enemies of the industry: These molders are the ones responsible for OSHA and their actions; they are also responsible for the high cost of workers' compensation insurance, liability insurance and most of the injuries throughout our industry.
To get rid of OSHA would be a terrible mistake. If Mr. Collins and Mr. Ebert would like to work in an industry that is not bothered by OSHA, I would suggest that they gain employment within the agricultural industry. Cotton gins, for example, are controlled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and OSHA is not permitted to inspect cotton gins. The result is that every year a hundred or so workers are maimed, crushed, shredded, suffer amputations and, on occasion, killed.
This industry is without the headache of OSHA and has the choice to correct the safety concerns or not. So far its safety record speaks for itself.
The answer is not to get rid of OSHA, but to get rid of the molders who believe that they are above the law and neglect their responsibility to provide a safe workplace.