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Guy Prescott

Executive Director, Assistance and Recovery Program, Inc., former Cal/OSH Standards Board  labor representative

Guy Prescott

A longtime safety professional for the Operating Engineers union, Prescott brings a wealth of construction safety knowledge to the board and a skeptical eye toward regulatory overreach.

Resume: In Prescott’s current post, he assists family members of Operating Engineers Local 3. Prior to this he served as director of safety for Local 3 from 2005-2008. He is the former president and owner of Common Sense Safety, Inc. and he has been a lead instructor for Region IX OSHA Training Institutes. For 19 years he worked in a variety of positions at Sandia National Laboratories, including construction program safety and as a volunteer firefighter. Smith also taught with OSHA Education Centers at the University of Michigan and Rocky Mountain Training Institute.

Schools:  He has an associate degree from San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton.

Boards and Commissions:  He was a member of the Cal/OSH Standards Board from 2008 to 2012.

 

Q&A

What are the top issues in California occupational safety and health today?

Right now it is basically the balance between budget and safety. One of the major things that happens anytime there is cutbacks is that safety is seen as an area that can be cut back. And it normally takes a larger proportional cut than other departments or areas. It is a difficult sell to get owners or managers see that you need to maintain your safety profile and performance especially in a down economy.

 

Injury and illness rates continue to decrease, with some exceptions. What's the next great leap forward in occupational safety and health?

The economy changing the way it has, there are less hours being worked, so you’d expect less accidents, depending on how the statistical pool is put together. I’m not sure they’re going down by leaps and bounds.

 

One group -- Hispanics/Latinos -- suffers a disproportionate number of injuries and illnesses. Why? How should California address this problem?

There are some cultural areas where the Hispanic population is not comfortable in reporting conditions that could lead to injury and illness. What the state can do about that is going to be very difficult. It is a very hard and long process to get someone to change their cultural background. It is something that is going to take quite some time to get turned around. I don’t really know if the state can do lot about that. I think the Hispanic community can do lot about bringing an awareness that it is okay to bring concerns forward in the United States. That it may not have been in their native country.

 

The Injury and Illness Prevention Program is the basic safety requirement for California employers. Now Fed-OSHA is working toward adopting its version of this requirement. Does the California IIPP standard need revision or is it fine the way it is? And if it needs revision, how so?

I would actually hope that the Feds take a look at the Cal IIPP program and the way it is used in California. I think it is a very excellent program and I would hope that the Feds could use it as a model.

 

 

If you could change anything about Cal/OSHA, what would it be?

                a. Should enforcement be increased?

                b. Communications

                c. Training for inspectors

I think better training for inspectors, so there is a more uniform approach to inspection and citations. It would be extremely helpful. One complaint I hear over and over again is just how from one county or area things are enforced so much different than in another area. I believe it would be easier for everyone, employers and employees, if there was some statewide training for the compliance people to make sure that everyone is handling everything equally.

 

Some observers say injury and illness rates are higher than they appear because employers find ways to hide injuries, or not record them. Do you agree this is a serious problem and if so, how should it be addressed?

There are some employers who will do that, but I think it is a very small minority of employers. It is advantageous for an employer to report to their workers’ comp insurance because there is liability coverage and insurance for them in doing so in workers’ comp case versus something coming up later on. So anyone doing that thinking they are saving money in the long term will find they actually are not.

 

 

Will AB 2774 resolve the problems cited by DOSH on serious violations and provide a more equitable appeals system? If not, how should it be reformed?

I don’t believe so, not the way it is written at this time. I think we’ve got another year to see if there are some drafting changes in that. In general there is just not uniform buy-in by both employers and employees on it. There are still quite a few issues that need to be resolved. There is quite a bit of ground for compromise to be made.

 

 

Should DOSH approach enforcement with more of an eye toward achieving compliance, rather than looking for violations to cite? And if so, would such an approach work?

I think education is always the best tool provided that an individual wants to learn. If an individual does not want to learn, then citation becomes the only tool that you have. I can see that from compliance, though that it is very difficult to establish who is, and who is not, willing to learn.

 

What should Cal/OSHA do to help small employers create safe workplaces and comply with Title 8 regulations?

Cal/OSHA does have the voluntary program, but it is very much understaffed with very little advertisement. The usual small business just starting out has no idea it is even there. I would love to see them be able to do more outreach in that area, but like everything else in these times, [it] becomes a budgetary issue.

 

What about safety do employers struggle with the most?
Depending totally on the industry, it is different from industry to industry. But generally the complaint I hear from employers is trying to be in compliance with regulations that they either can’t understand or they are being regulated on the same issue by numerous different entities. You have environmental laws [and] health laws that tend to overlap. It is very difficult for employers to stay in touch with and up to date with everything that is going on in the state.


Are there reliable and knowledgeable training people available?

In general, yes there are. It is a matter of cost.

 

What kind of training is the most crucial for employers to provide?

I think most crucial is to provide information on their injury and illness program, and that is the open-door program, so that employees do feel comfortable in bringing issues forward. The biggest key issue to any safety program is the communication program.

 

What else do you read to get your occupational safety and health information?

The federal regulations, the California regulations. As a board member, we get all the changes, notices of meetings and minutes from meetings. We see all that. In addition, I check the Federal Registry when there are federal OSHA regulations coming up to better understand the thinking behind the regulation rather than just the words.

 

How did you get started in safety? Was there any particular experience in your career that triggered your interest in safety? What’s interesting about it? What’s interesting about it now?

I got in it from the fire department. I was a firefighter and investigator, and inspector, from there worked into occupational safety and from there construction safety and off and running.

 

What’s interesting about it now?

I like seeing people being able to go home as safe and healthy as they came to work. When I am teaching safety classes, I remind people that if they came to work with all 10 fingers it is their responsibility to make sure they go home with all 10. The key at the end of the day to realize the Band-Aid is a warning and it should be taken seriously.

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