In the May 3rd edition of the Plastic News in the Viewpoint section, a submission was published that was written by Don Loepp, Editor of Plastics News titled “It’s a matter of safety: Employers’ role in the vaccine race”. The piece starts with setting the stage describing any one of many viral videos where a person without a face covering goes into a public place and confronts someone about their right to not wear a face covering. Mr. Loepp went on to explain that such persons “…could never work in a manufacturing plant. They can’t follow a simple safety rule.” He went on to opine that safety rules are not followed by everyone stating that it’s “…a fact that every shift supervisor and plant manager in the plastics industry knows. Some people just can’t live without answering their cellphone or bother to wear safety glasses…” He further surmises that “Those who can’t follow the rules don’t last long on the factory floor. Safety is too important. And not just the safety of the individual would-be rulebreakers, but the safety of everyone around them.” He went on to finish the opinion piece laying out why and how he thinks employers should “…strongly encourage everyone…to get vaccinated.”

As I finished reading his opinion piece, I got to thinking. There are many sources of guidance information with the two primary sources being CDC and OSHA for the workplace. Other sources include the various organizations that support occupational safety and health. However, it seems that during this pandemic the CDC, OSHA, and organizations have come under scrutiny for the information that is being put forth.

As Safety Professionals, we trust NIOSH for respirator certifications, industrial hygiene sampling methods, hearing protection (NRR), and the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards, to name a few things. Why do some trust NIOSH for this information and not trust the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which is the parent department of NIOSH? We have heard throughout this pandemic that we should “follow the science” and many Safety Professionals practice the mantra of “trust yet verify”. How can some trust NIOSH (and the CDC) for some information and not other information. We believed and followed OSHA regulations until they started providing information for the workplace based upon the ever-developing CDC guidance on public health requirements then some questioned OSHA, their motives and credibility. What changed?

Many organizations, including those aligned with occupational safety and health, provided guidance to their members and to the general public to choose to use (or not) to develop protections for workers in every industry. Most of the guidance I reviewed seemed to align with the CDC and OSHA guidance information. Some members of these organizations that were staunch supporters of the organizations then, as with OSHA and CDC, called the organizations motives and credibility into question.

While I have no firm answers to the points and questions raised, I do have one more question: What changed?

For more information, contact:
Wayne Vanderhoof CSP, CIT
Sr. Consultant/President
RJR Safety Inc.

Categories: Blog