Mandatory Means Mandatory – Look it up

Mandatory Means Mandatory – Look it up. Here’s how it works. Regulations, and all the rules they reference, are mandatory. That means there is no discussion, negotiation, or choice.

mandatory-means-mandatory-look-it-upHow long is it going to be before people figure out that compliance with regulations, the standards they incorporate, manufacturer’s instructions, etc., are not just neat little safety suggestions, they are the law.

Here’s how it works. Regulations, and all the rules they reference, are mandatory. That means there is no discussion, negotiation, or choice. You might think that would be obvious since they are strewn with words like shall, must and many other definitive terms that leave no room for interpretation but apparently to some it is not.

Personally, I am up to here (pointing to the area between my upper lip and nose) with hearing phrases like, we can’t do that or, that’s not realistic, after I tell some safety “professional” that forklift operators have to be evaluated at their workplace on the same type of equipment they will operate or that they need to wear a seatbelt. The science is in, the evidence has been weighed and considered, the decisions have been rendered (in the form of regulations). Time to move on. Not everyone agrees but at this point your agreement is neither required nor relevant and all the rants and raves to the contrary can hope to amount to are little more than incidental side notes in an incident investigation, Coroner’s inquest and/or the litigation that follows.

I apologize if I am being overly sardonic but what is it about the word mandatory that people do not understand? There is no doubt that regulatory compliance can be terribly inconvenient to some but that doesn’t preclude the fact that it must be done. To rail against it with nothing more than an unqualified and/or hostile opinion is akin to howling at the moon, and is just as effective.

If you want to make a case about something then make a case. Investigate, gather evidence, and study data both pro and con. Talk to people on both sides of the issue. Have your peers (if any) review your findings/conclusions and if appropriate, forward your case to the appropriate entity and see what comes back. In the meantime, the rest of us will just have to stumble along in compliance with regulations drawn from empirical data processed through the designated and appropriate channels.

It’s important for employers to remember that their regulatory compliance-related responsibilities cannot be delegated or deflected. Employers can delegate their duties, but never their responsibility. Since employers are responsible for regulatory compliance and all the mandatory elements incorporated therein, it is they that must face the music when there’s a problem, not whoever’s opinion they liked and delegated the task to.

Is it fair that an employer who tries to act in a responsible manner but engages the services of a negligent provider gets burned? Heavens no! But that’s the way it is and you can bet that OSHA is not going to give a rodent’s derriere about that or anyone’s opinion on what is “realistic” or conveniently do-able with respect to regulations.

To coin a popular phrase used in the safety and health biz, ‘If you think compliance is tough, try an accident.’ If that doesn’t convince you, try driving over to the victim’s house to tell the family that their loved one isn’t coming home. Now that’s a tough one.

Rob Vetter
Director of Training
IVES Training Group

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