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May 08, 2006

OSHA director blames workplace carnage on stupid employees

The director of the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration, OSHA, blames workplace accidents on stupid employees:

Ed Foulke, the man charged by the President of the United States with ensuring the safety of America's workers, made a speech last week entitled "Adults Do The Darndest Things" which displayed a shockingly profound lack of understanding of some of the most fundamental principles of workplace safety, combined with an astonishing insensitivity to the tragic losses that thousands of American families face each year. [Jordan Barab, Confined Space]

Read Jordan's whole post, linked to above. He explains how Foulke's presentation is a resurgence of the "behavioral" theory of safety, which might as well be called the "punishment" theory of safety.

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Oh, very nice, yet another in a series of BushCo "personal responsibility" initiatives, better translated as the Republican undermotto, "Fuck you, I've got mine". By chance, would Foulke be another appointee in the Brownie mold, that is, unqualified for his job but a heckuva fundraiser?

They'll be laying off about 50,000 CIA union employees soon and it would be neat to see some photos!

And they're not even, say, pictures from OSHA accident reports. It looks like Foulke Googled for "funny picture forklift" or "funny picture ladder"; do the same, and you'll find all of his illustrations. Slow day at the office, Foulkie?

Although it has been almost 5 years since my brother, Gary Puleio, was killed due to unsafe working conditions I mourn for him still and therefore I am appalled at the callous and thoughtless speech given by Edwin Foulke, Assistant Secretary of Labor entitled “ Adults Do the Dumbest Things.” This pathetic attempt at humor insults the families of those killed on the job and dishonors our dead who gave their lives trying to eke out an existence in George Bush’s America, a country where corporate cronyism has replaced competence in our regulatory agencies, to the peril of our nation and its citizens.

My brother died a brutal death due to negligence. After being “downsized” from his previous truck driving job, he accepted a non union job at a concrete plant as a cement truck driver to support his wife and 2 sons who were 3 and 10. The older boy was born with multiple handicaps so Gary chose a job where he could be close to home. In economically depressed northwestern PA, a 53 year old man has few options. These facts combined with the lack of union protection set the stage for his exposure to dangerous working conditions.

Three months after accepting this position Gary fell 25 feet from a cement tower, while shoveling gravel off the hopper to clean it. The company claimed Gary just “ wandered up there on his own, “ without wearing any safety equipment, at the end of his driving shift rather than being assigned this dangerous task because he was the “new man”.

OSHA accepted this implausible story and after admitting no wrong doing, the company paid a $6000 fine for REPEAT violations for not posting danger signs at a confined space and not implementing measures to prevent unauthorized entry. This company had multiple serious violations issued only months before Gary was killed which were informally settled with reduced fines.

Although almost 5 years have past I cannot forget the terrible circumstances surrounding his death nor the insulting story told by the company about how he just “wandered up there on his own”. But what had stood out most painfully, had been the inadequacy of the regulatory system designed to protect workers and the injustices of the current system. Unfortunately that inadequacy has been demonstrated time and time again over the past 5 years in cases such as the Sago tragedy. Each of these cases of inadequate enforcement and paltry fines dishonors the memory of workers previously killed on the job because they render our dead even more inconsequential to government regulatory agencies since obviously they do not change enforcement techniques nor make companies any more accountable.

Mr. Foulkes abhorrent speech however tops even this. It is a disgrace and desecrates our loved ones memory.

Donna Puleio Spadaro, MD


I think he hit the nail on the head. I have seen people do stupid things. No employer wants his workers hurt and an employee wants to complete the job but are they smart enough to do it safely? NO, thats why government make the rules!

I think he hit the nail on the head. I have seen people do stupid things. No employer wants his workers hurt and an employee wants to complete the job but are they smart enough to do it safely? NO, thats why government make the rules!

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