Ensuring Occupational Safety Despite the Government Shutdown

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Contractor compliance solution provider, BROWZ, shares 5 ways that companies can monitor safety when the “watchdog isn’t watching.”

The U.S. Government has been shut down since October 1, including the furlough of 1,400 MSHA employees. In this time period, three coal miner deaths were reported consecutively in a three-day period – a statistic that hasn’t occurred in over 10 years, according to a recent MSHA news release.

These deaths are causing non-government organizations to speak up in an effort to raise awareness and concern. Cecil E. Roberts, President of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), issued a statement on October 8 expressing his fear about the potential connection between the government shutdown and the three miner deaths:

“The circumstances surrounding each of these fatalities are different, and I do not want to draw immediate conclusions as to their causes based on incomplete evidence at this time. But it is extremely troubling that within a week after the federal government shutdown caused the normal system of mine safety inspection and enforcement to come to a halt, three miners are dead," Roberts continued. "The government's watchdog isn't watching.”

“The time to find out that you have violations is not when the watchdog gets back to work,” says Brett Armstrong, VP of BROWZ. “Although regulatory bodies such as MSHA and OSHA play a critical role, occupational health and safety is not solely the concern of the federal government. Proactive organizations are committed to ensuring the well-being of every single person that they employ, every single day of the year.”

MSHA and OSHA make it clear that operators are responsible for the safety of employees and contracted workers. According to the Mine Safety Act, operators have the primary responsibility of protecting miners from safety and health hazards. According to OSHA, this responsibility also extends beyond the operator’s employees to the safety and health of contracted workers. This responsibility is outlined in the Multi-Employer Citation Policy (CPL 2-0.124) which states that more than one employer may be citable for a hazardous condition that violates an OSHA standard.

Armstrong continues, “It’s the same site operators that demonstrate their integrity to protect their workers and contractors, even when no one is watching. In practice this means that the business is committed to prequalifying and monitoring the compliance of third-party contractors and suppliers.”

BROWZ, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, has been helping companies in high-risk industries, such as mining, to monitor contractor compliance for more than a decade. BROWZ suggests the following five steps that companies can take to improve safety through contractor management and monitoring for the balance of the federal government shutdown and beyond.

1.    Prequalify members of your supply chain prior to bid award by ensuring suppliers meet regulatory and corporate compliance standards.

2.    Monitor key contractor metrics such as annual injury/illness statistics, safety programs and policies, citations and violation histories, and employee training programs.

3.    Verify that safety programs and policies meet current regulatory standards including procedures specific to contractors job function and ensure that appropriate trainings has been received by all employees.

4.    Integrate information systems so that contractor compliance information is available and up-to-date for the whole organization.

5.    Dynamically track compliance information that may expire or change including safety statistics, insurance, and licenses and credentials.

“Through the active management of safety documentation, like site induction and training records, as well as the ongoing monitoring of current and historical safety trends, companies can minimize workplace risk and improve safety outcomes by hiring the best performing contractors and suppliers,” says Armstrong.

Elaine Beitler, President and CEO of BROWZ, indicates that while the U.S. Government shutdown has undoubtedly affected businesses of all sizes, she still believes that many businesses are trying to do the right thing in terms of safety and contractor management.

“Corporate social responsibility is more than just a buzzword for the organizations that employ BROWZ. It means doing the right thing for their global customers and their employees and contractors. Our client base is not only interested in working with the safest contractors and suppliers, but also in educating those who may not meet their standard. It is BROWZ’s job as an independent third party to help our clients identify the contractors and suppliers within their supply chain who present undue risk and come up with a plan that gets that supplier compliant and preserves the safety of the workplace."

While BROWZ was founded to help mining organizations with compliance, the company currently operates around the globe in diverse industries such as manufacturing, construction, utilities, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. BROWZ addresses supply chain compliance needs related to environmental health & safety, corporate social responsibility, insurance, risk, financial stability, supplier demographics, employee-level management, security, and more.

“As our clients can attest, contractors that are prequalified consistently outperform their peers on key safety performance indicators, such as recordable incident rates and lost time rates,” adds Beitler. “Ultimately, this results in less litigation, fewer insurance claims, and most importantly saved lives, and that’s good news no matter who’s watching.”

BROWZ is the leading solution for comprehensive supply chain risk mitigation and contractor prequalification. Its fully configurable solution simplifies the exchange, verification, and maintenance of critical data between clients and their supply chain, while adapting to the client’s unique business needs. Delivered as a software-as–a-service (SaaS) solution, BROWZ functions as a central, web-based data repository for all supply chain prequalification and compliance information, and is available 24/7 and in multiple languages anywhere around the world. Through a combination of compliance best practices, technology, and service, BROWZ addresses supply chain compliance needs related to insurance and risk, environmental health & safety, corporate social responsibility, financial stability, supplier demographics, employee level management, security, and much more. For more information, visit http://www.browz.com.

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Brett Armstrong, VP of Marketing
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