Naming and shaming

Mark Costello, OK Labor Commissioner

Mark Costello, OK Labor Commissioner

In the 1850 novel, The Scarlet Letter, protagonist Hester Prynee is publicly named and shamed for her adulterous act and was forced to wear the scarlet letter “A.” Today, nearly 160 years after the release of the novel, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agency is planning to publicly name and shame large companies in our country by posting injury and illness reports on a new government web site.

The difference today is that those businesses to be named and shamed have committed no wrong. They have broken no law. They are just the most recent victims of an aggressive anti-private enterprise agenda of the current administration.

As a former business owner, I know first-hand the damage this regulation could do to a company and its employees. The proposed regulation as a means to improve safety is unwise and unproven. It will harm the reputation of the employer and is equivalent of painting a scarlet letter on individual businesses.

NamingShamingThis naming and shaming aspect proposed by OSHA will lead to a distortion of a company’s safety record and could be used in an adversarial manner by union bosses and trial lawyers, or their competition.

As Commissioner of Labor, it is my lawful obligation to speak out for the economic well-being as well as safety concerns of our state. For Federal OSHA to continue to do its job with the goal of reducing workplace accidents and injuries, they should redirect existing resources to the states where voluntary consultation programs are making a difference in reducing workplace accidents. Historically, the Oklahoma Department of Labor’s voluntary consultation services have resulted in a reduction of workplace accidents and injuries.

Programs such as Oklahoma’s voluntary consultation service Safety Pays, have created safer work environments, decreased employee lost time, and reduced workers’ comp rates. This cooperative program is voluntary and has strengthened relations between regulators and the business community.

I testified before the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. and called for a stand-down on this ill-considered proposal. It is in the best interest of job creators and the workers they employ.