Mike Hendricks from the Kansas City Star notes in a recent article that all-too-often, trench collapses happen when “work crews take shortcuts because they’re in a hurry or think a trench box interferes with the job they’re doing.”
While it may be true that workers are “cutting corners” to finish the job they are assigned to do, blaming the workers ignores the 800 pound gorilla in the room.
Instead of blaming the worker for the tragedy that has befallen him, let’s blame those responsible for making him cut corners in the first place. Workers hurry because their priority is getting their work done as quickly as possible so they don’t get fired for being inefficient. Getting the job done as safely as possible is a goal, but not necessarily a priority.
If worker safety were a top priority, employers would be making sure their employees followed safety procedures. If they said “Wear your helmet or we’ll fire you,” and they enforced that policy, employees would know their employer was as serious about safety as he is about profits, and they would follow safety regulations– even if doing so slowed them down.
If employers don’t want to make worker safety a priority, than OSHA should MAKE it their priority– period. They should make the fines they levy something to dread– something to sweat about– not something to sneeze at.