Letters From The Earth

Going public

By Calvin Frost | April 15, 2014

For the last month or so I’ve been caught between religion and safety culture.  I’m not sure why, but it’s happened (am I getting older?). I can’t seem to make them connect: one is so subjective and the other totally black and white. Then, someone handed me a copy of W. H. Auden’s The Meditation of Simeon. Everything became clear, well really the fact that unclear is clear.  Try this:
“From the beginning until now God spoke through his prophets.  The Word aroused the uncomprehending depths of their flesh to a witnessing jury, and their witness was this:  That the word should be made Flesh.  Yet their witness could only be received as long as it was vaguely misunderstood, as long as it seemed either to be neither impossible nor necessary, or necessary but not impossible, or, impossible but not necessary; and the prophecy could not therefore be fulfilled. For it could only be fulfilled when it was no longer possible to receive, because it was clearly understood as absurd.  The Word could not be made Flesh until men had reached a state of absolute contradiction between clarity and despair in which they would have no choice but either to accept absolutely or reject absolutely, yet in their choice there should be no element of luck, for they would be fully conscious of what they were accepting or rejecting . . .”

Okay, this is pretty heavy.  Read it again.  It took me three or four times to get the essence of the message and when I finally figured it out it was like a revelation. I have some regular readers – John, Bill, and Jack. Please, you three, read it again. Auden, by the way, grew up with a bipolar relationship with religion. As he aged he became increasingly religious. Most of his poetry and writings occurred during this period and sometimes it takes a minute to understand his message. To be honest, when I read him in college I didn’t understand him a bit. Of course, those were my drinking days! I guess between Auden’s message and the fact that we had a recordable accident shortly after proudly celebrating an accident-free year, I reflected more carefully on our industry’s focus on safety. Sometimes I think we give lip service to safety. “Yeah, we need to do and behave according to rules and regulations.” But, are we sincere? Is everyone on board?  “As long as it seemed either to be neither impossible nor necessary, or necessary but not impossible, or impossible but not necessary.” Do you see where I’m going?

In November of 2013, Dr. David Michael, the head of OSHA, made an announcement in The Wall Street Journal that his organization would make public specific data on individual employers’ injury and illness rates and information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301. Form 300 is Injury and Illness Incident Report and really asks employers to “tell us (OSHA) how the recordable injury occurred.” It also asks what the employee was doing prior to the injury. (Perhaps climbing a ladder, perhaps adding chemicals or ink to an applicator, or, even, perhaps entering data on a computer (God forbid).

So OSHA is asking for specifics.  You can’t say, John or Joe or Judy has back pain or is sore.  You have to be specific, such as, John carried an 80 pound bag and hurt his back; or, Joe is sore because he spilled acid on his hand (wasn’t wearing a protective garment); or Judy has developed carpel tunnel syndrome.

This will be made public, mind you, at least that is Michael’s proposal.
Form 300, Log of Work Related Injuries and Illnesses, asks employers to further analyze each recordable accident. Just so you get the specificity of the proposal, here is what you’d have to report in a recordable lost time accident:

When did it occur
Was there a fatality
How many days away from work
What was the nature of the accident
Was it injury, skin disorder, respiratory, poison, etc.

And it goes on.  I am very skeptical how much “public posting” will change habits. I also question whether going public really accomplishes anything. In our own situation I’m not sure if public posting would make us any better or if it would create a change. Certainly it would embarrass our management team and we are already so focused on safety that it would probably be a “downer.” It is interesting that the US Chamber of Commerce has weighed in on this proposal. (And, of course they would. Frankly, so would I).  “Just because you have an injury, doesn’t mean there was employer fault,” Marc Freedman, Executive Director of Labor Law Policy at the U.S. Chamber of commerce, told the Associated Press. “Reporting the injury records does not tell the full story of the company.  Making company-specific data on injuries available for all to see would be a major problem and would likely lead to companies being targeted by outside groups . . . “ I’m not so sure about that in our industry, but large and small, we need to be concerned with OSHA going this way, at least that’s my view.

Just to set the record straight, our recordable was a back injury.  Someone did something they shouldn’t have done. Have you heard this before? Has it happened to you? Look, we know as a company that worker safety is incredibly important. It is everyone’s priority. I think most of you, like me, get so caught up in the day-to-day part of trying to make a profit, trying to have a positive monthly bottom line, that sometimes we forget the most important part of our business: creating an environment that is healthy and safe. A positive culture is more than compliant with rules and regulations. It’s a culture that doesn’t just improve safety, but benefits productivity, staff retention and overall organizational behavior.  Stay focused and create goals that are not only achievable but celebrated. Indeed, we do this at our company and it creates an incredibly positive environment.

Gosh, earthlings have so many different focus points, priorities and conflicts. How do they keep them all straight! As I view humans I think they’re easy targets for a better way, particularly impossible versus possible and necessary versus unnecessary.
Another Letter from the Earth.

P.S.  Many of you may have thought my news bit on Monster Silk was a figment of my imagination.  Really, it wasn’t and here’s the latest:

LANSING, Mich., Dec. 9, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Kraig Biocraft Laboratories, Inc., the leading developer of advanced spider silk based fibers, announced that the company delivered the first shipment of its Monster Silk  recombinant spider silk fiber to Warwick Mills, Inc.  Warwick is a leader in the engineering and development of advanced technical textiles and protective materials.

The shipment represents a key step in the company’s collaborative development initiative with Warwick, which will target the development of advanced spider silk based textiles.

“This first shipment of Monster Silk marks a new phase for Kraig and it demonstrates the efficacy of our research and development program and business model,” said Kraig CEO and founder, Kim K. Thompson.  “Warwick Mills is an innovator with a strong track record of developing and weaving advanced high strength textiles.  So the delivery of this first small shipment of recombinant spider silk to them is a very exciting milestone in the commercialization of spider silk,” concluded Thompson.

Calvin Frost is chairman of Channeled Resources Group, headquartered in Chicago, the parent company of Maratech International and GMC Coating. His email address is cfrost@channeledresources.com.
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