Sunday, September 16, 2007

to fear OSHA, wear that helmet

Last Tuesday at work, at the end of coffee break, there was read the safety talk page on OSHA. It was interesting, in the pitch of its paranoia; its projection of this fearsome and malevolent agency. I could count on one hand, the number of times I've seen OSHA on the job. Since the usurpation of the federal branch, I've not seen them this millennium.

We were told to delay and delay their entrance, to make sure they were accompanied by a company representative, to photograph what they photographed and so on... The response of my workmates was near comic, in regard, to the absurdity. Any attempt to regulate business is met with hysteria, the exercise of capitalism must be unfettered.

The last time I saw a government safety man, it was on the one of two worst job sites that I've been on. There were three rent a day scab outfits on the job. Only we, wireman (electricians), were union. They literally hired off the street. A kid, the day before asked for work, the next day he was operating a chop saw for the first time. His attire was gym shoes and sweatpants, but they gave him a plastic helmet, so everything was all right.

One entire wall of the building was removed. The roofers were boiling asphalt with total disregard to surroundings and passerbys. There were uncovered holes in the concrete on the second floor. There were gas tanks at the top of stairs unsecured. There was a partially ripped up computer floor, that on one occasion almost snapped my leg off... The one thing they did do, was to sweep. The ground was kept constantly clean, that was unusual and good. They hired someone to push broom. Another wireman and myself went about compelled to secure some degree of safety for the other stuff, generally one trade is only to take care of their own work. It is the laborers' (a distinct trade unto itself) job to remove debris and they usually defend their territory doggedly.

Someone called OHSA one day. I wondered, why all of a sudden all the scabs went out to the parking lot, while we were the only ones left in or on the building. We continued working, and since the foreman was out on another job again (something I've only seen in that shop), we talked to the government man. His response was that we could handle the matters ourselves without his involvement. The only thing he caused to happen, was that, he had caution tape put about the only plastic toilet facility (portable); this was fine with me, I, then, had the go ahead to drive to a fast food place and use its human facilities. It, the portapotty, was to be off limits until it was cleaned, to put it colorfully, some filthy miscreant shat in the pisser portion.

When supervision enforces safety, other than in car plants (UAW), nine plus times out of ten, the ONLY matter that is of concern is the mandatory wearing of hardhats. Customers and the usual non-construction work force on site will not be required to do so and they are oblivious to the work involved. Tourists, muckety mucks appraising the job, wear new white ones as a parade item.

There will be times your head will be in the ceiling, where you may not have enough room to turn your nose 45 degrees -- you must wear a hardhat. You are lying on your back -- you must wear a hardhat. It is 90°F and 90% humidity, sweat blinds your eyes, your hair is matted, rivulets stream down your face and back -- you must wear a hardhat. You are chancing heat stroke -- you must wear a hardhat. If not, you are kicked off the site. Zero tolerance, zero thought.

This is not OSHA tyranny, this is managerial idiocy. I've heard the general superintendent tell the foreman that he should be wearing a white hardhat, not the blue of his crew. I have had the contractor's booklet of rules state,that you must only where the hardhat issued. I have seen numbers placed on hardhats. I have seen different crews of the same contractor wearing different colors. Hardhats are primarily for identification! Secondarily they are a cover for management's a** to escape responsibility if something should occur. Yes, I realize there are circumstances where a hat is practical for personal safety, but in the great majority of my work -- they are not.

Hardhats are cheap, and provided by your direct employer and, therefore, costs the general management nothing. They then believe, that they need do nothing else, in regards to legitimate safety.

There is an OSHA approved cowboy shaped plastic hat. One should make the things look as ridiculous as possible. When I am coerced to don one, it sits on my head cocked to one side, even this disturbs management. False authority does not like to be mocked, e.g. bush junior. William Tell became a national hero because he didn't salute a hat. General Suvarov trounced and stomped on his hat before the tsarina. It has been said, "that no job that requires the wearing of a silly hat is worth having."
noto bene:
OSHA = United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration signed into existence on 29 December 1970.
correction: after a year and a half, I noticed I wrote OHSA throughout; lack of proofreading on my part, I was thinking Ohša, ohsha.

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