At the end of July, the FMCSA and OSHA said they'd be teaming up to share information when an employee alleges safety violations against a company. The idea is that the best-positioned agency might be able to go after the carrier in whistleblower cases.
And less than a month later, OSHA rolled out a $1MM fine against a Michigan-based asphalt company for firing truck drivers who refused to break federal laws prohibiting tired drivers from getting behind the wheel.
Training to Avoid Retaliation
We're willing to bet that the company doesn't consider themselves a "trucking company." Yet they're obviously reliant on trucks that fall under jurisdiction of the FMCSA. For some companies, it's a grey area that they don't want to investigate too deeply. But more and more are realizing that they need training for their managers, dispatchers and drivers so they don't run afoul of regulations.
It seems simple enough to tell managers not to retaliate against a person who brings up a safety issue. But in practice, people often feel a lot of pressure to "just get it done." What should your employees do?
We talked to Katherine Fellenstein, CTP, Weyerhaeuser. She's an expert in OSHA focused on trucking. She said,
"Regardless of the size of the operation, fleets that have safety as a core value will have no need to fear or be concerned with this coordinated look at worker complaints in my view.
"A smaller fleet should have an easier time building the solid relationships with drivers that enable them to comfortably and honestly report to the management team concerns with safety and compliance…in a perfect world. Where there will be issues will be in those situations where safety and compliance take a back seat to profit and ego," she said.
"We all have to hire the right person for the seat — dispatch, supervisor, manager, driver, the folks that get the job done. We need to give them the right tools to do the job profitably, safely and compliant with the regulations. When fleet owners do give and support these basics, there isn’t a need for whistle blowing. This coordinated effort is just that, an effort and not one that will impact those doing the right thing for the right reasons. When they don’t, expect more complaints and more enforcement action to reward not doing what’s right."
We also talked to Greg Pattison of GLP Systems Inc. He's helped us with GHS training, which is another joint OSHA-FMCSA regulation.
"With the teaming together of these two federal agencies sharing databases can only expand enforcement. If I were advising a trucking company, I would make sure that the obvious infractions like logs, training, plans were up to date. Adding OSHA's 2,000 plus inspectors will increase the number of violations as they focus on safety and hazmat rules."
Whistleblower protection training is required by the FMCSA for drivers, so we recommend all managers and/or dispatchers take "Harassment, Retaliation and Discrimination." It's a part of the PRO-TREAD curriculum for managers — a premium add-on to your PRO-TREAD account.