Mandatory Regulations vs. a Strong Safety Culture

OSHA and safety culture

OSHA Suspends its November ETS on Mandatory Vaccinations

OSHA vaccine mandate

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  announced on November 16, 2021, that it is suspending all implementation and enforcement efforts related to the Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) announced on November 4, 2021, setting a standard for mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and testing in the workplace. The announcement follows the Nov. 12, 2021, order from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals staying enforcement of the ETS pending a final ruling on its legality.

While the courts and OSHA continue to review the standards regarding vaccinations, companies are challenged with understanding the regulations and providing a safe environment for their employees and the general public.

What constitutes safety in the workplace?

We have spoken about safety and the value of creating a safety culture within an organization.

Statistically, an unsafe work environment can cost a company billions of dollars and, more importantly, loss of life. According to OSHA:

  • 24,000 workers are injured in every 8-hour workday.
  • Seventeen workers will die each day.
  • According to the National Safety Council, job site injuries cost society $128 billion in 1997, increasing to $291 billion in 2006.

These are direct costs, including medical expenses and lost time. Indirect costs include loss of productivity, negative community press, litigation, and damage to the company brand. The impact on morale when a coworker dies or is seriously injured is somewhat immeasurable.

OSHA’s policies towards workplace safety, and in this case, mandatory vaccinations, may or may not impact the overall safety of the people and the company. Ownership of a safe environment needs to begin with the management and owners themselves. Dictating policies only skims the service. Creating an atmosphere of employee ownership and buy-in creates the most effective safety culture.

 The 9% and 90% rule


As our country evolved and manufacturing and industry boomed, conditions were often deplorable, and death and serious injuries were commonplace. Governing bodies stepped in to ensure owners and facilities were monitored and held accountable to provide safe environments. Things began to improve under their watchful eye. However, the employees were not trained and supported to work effectively and safely.

Today we know that 9% of workplace injuries are condition-based, and 90% are due to actions in the workplace. Scott Mckenna, President of Catamount Consulting, subscribes to behavioral-based safety.

“My experience shows that employees want to succeed and perform within safety standards,” says McKenna. “Give them the tools, training, and support to do so.”

“Injuries and fatalities will not decrease because of an increase in rules and regulations. Governing mandates from OSHA or MSHA will not have the same impact as an environment of a strong safety culture coupled with management support, proper tools, and training.”

Develop your staff and mitigate your risk of injury

Working with your management team and staff to create a safety culture and mindset will deliver far greater results than increased regulations. Training your employees to be mindful. Unsafe acts are the leading cause of injury and death. Mandates and regulations are ineffective without them.

If you have an employee who skirts the rules of equipment guarding, tethering on rooftops, or something as simple as wearing safety glasses, your overall risk of injury is significant. There are regulations and OSHA standards for these behaviors, yet injuries continue to occur. Therefore, a change needs to occur and engagement in safety culture is the key.

Catamount Consulting is your resource for (OSHA) safety training

The Catamount Mobile Hearing trailer can visit worksites throughout the Northeast United States, including New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania

Our trainers and safety consultants provide OSHA safety training, education, and litigation assistance in both construction and general industry. In addition, we are a provider of comprehensive on and off-site training in all facets of MSHA, OSHA, and Firearms Safety, as well as Leadership/Management Development and Peak Performance Mindset Training. Please contact us to speak with Scott or a member of our team today.

Scott McKenna is a professional member of the International Society of Mine Safety Professionals (ISMSP), a certified instructor with the Mine Safety Health Administration, and an OSHA Certified Construction Trainer. He has over 15 years of experience in the mining and construction industries and is active in the Joseph A. Holmes Safety Association. He has authored or contributed to several published articles on construction and mining safety and lectures regularly to various business and safety professionals. Mr. McKenna is also a certified trainer or instructor in a broad range of disciplines. Contact Scott at