Progress Report - Chapter 3


OSHA: "One Foot in Front of the Other"

Front-line workers at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had plenty of ideas about how to better protect American workers. The problem was that not many managers wanted to hear them.

Dave Katsock, a safety compliance officer in Parsippany, New Jersey, had an idea almost eight years ago. [14] He knew that, once fined by OSHA, business owners had no incentive to fix their problems quickly; they could delay for a year or more without penalty as their cases moved through the system. Why not offer owners 10 percent discounts on their fines, Katsock suggested, provided that they fixed their problems quickly? His area director's response: Get back to work--and follow the 400 pages of regulations. So he did, keeping the idea to himself for seven years.

Then, with the spirit of reinvention sweeping across government, he tried it out a year ago on a new boss. Intrigued, the boss pulled together the workers in the Parsippany office, discussed the idea, and decided to give it a try. As a result, the number of safety violations that business owners fix quickly has risen four-fold, thus reducing risks for thousands of workers.

Katsock wasn't the only inspector with a good idea. Last October, a month after the release of From Red Tape to Results , OSHA held an invention conference in which about 50 individuals participated. At the end, the 50 developed 22 initiatives that they asked OSHA's top officials to approve or reject--on the spot.

They approved 19, including a plan to revise the 400-page operations manual. Showing the tome to President Clinton at the White House in March, inspector Joan Hyatt, who works in Denver, said,

This is what dictates to us that we should fill out a large amount of paperwork and tells us exactly what kind of documentation we need to provide. It also tells us how to put one foot in front of the other and walk down the aisle of a workplace to do our inspections.

Hyatt was among eight OSHA workers who reduced the manual to less than 100 draft pages, cutting paperwork requirements and giving inspectors more time to, as she put it, "walk down the workplaces and protect the American workers."


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