Regulation works


Jim Weygand writing at the Twin Cities Daily Planet in Minnesota, defends government regulation:

For example there is not an industry today that is not safer than it was prior to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) in 1970. Since OSHA was created in 1970, workplace fatalities have decreased 60% despite the more than doubling of the work force. Job related injuries and illness rates have decreased by 40%. And, yes government regulation has increased.

We can also credit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the restrictions on DDT that have brought our eagle and ospreys back from the edge of extinction as well as protecting us from its effects.

It has worked to prevent future Love Canal type environmental disasters. Government controls on nuclear power have prevented a Chernobyl disaster in this country.

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19 Responses to Regulation works

  1. Thank you for the correction on MSHA, Ed.

    Now if MSHA would take a very large hammer to mining companies like Massey….

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  2. Alan writes:
    Unfortunately there are no statistics of how many companies OSHA has helped run out of business. If you want to screw any business drop a dime on them to OSHA .

    Oh lets say that OSHA has run businesses out of business. THen the question becomes: How many of those businesses who were run out of business actually deserved to be in business?

    And yet curiously, Alan, I’m willing to bet that question interests you not one bit.

    Because God forbid our workers actually be safe in the workplace…they should just show up, get paid nothing and if they die because of unsafe work conditions that’s just the price of capitalism, right?

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  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Interesting: A site at Baylor University for a policy debate on whether OSHA is harmful or beneficial; a few good things to read:
    http://business.baylor.edu/tom_kelly/OSHA%20debate.htm

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  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Unfortunately there are no statistics of how many companies OSHA has helped run out of business. If you want to screw any business drop a dime on them to OSHA .

    At the Senate Labor Committee we held hearings over four years, 1981 to 1985, on just that issue.

    One reason there are few statistics: Not many cases where OSHA regulations pushed a business to quit.

    As an OSHA compliance officer in corporate, I found very few problems. Much easier to work with OSHA than with the local fire department in many cases.

    I said it before, they are the most insane bureaucrats you will ever come across. They really could not care less about whether you stay in business. They will always have a job .

    Much less insane than many managers I’ve met. Concern for worker safety is rarely insane, I find.

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  5. Alan Scott says:

    Unfortunately there are no statistics of how many companies OSHA has helped run out of business. If you want to screw any business drop a dime on them to OSHA .

    I said it before, they are the most insane bureaucrats you will ever come across. They really could not care less about whether you stay in business. They will always have a job .

    But that is true of any profession . Whether it is a waitress or bureaucrat or politician, the less fear they have of losing their job, the less they care about customers, the public, and voters .

    I was just in Maryland, near D,C. to visit relatives . I am used to restaurant prices being almost twice what they are in Pa. In the past I have gotten used to rather sullen faces from people who obviously hate their jobs . I was surprised to suddenly be served by happy people , seemingly grateful that I was their customer . Everyone of those happy folks were immigrants .

    Even in a bad economy Americans do not appreciate what they do have . When you don’t appreciate it, you will not do a very good job. It is very hard to find anyone in government who gives a damn about anything. Why should they ?

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  6. Ed Darrell says:

    OSHA doesn’t do mines. Mine Safety and Health Administration, MSHA.

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  7. To quote:
    But, I’d guess that generally, OSHA and EPA have done mostly OK, but I’d guarantee there will be screwups.

    Which is far more palatable then the chaos that would result if we got rid of them.

    Someone who argues that we should get rid of the EPA or OSHA should have to drink the water, breathe the air and work in the coal mines that are being run by Massey Energy in the Appalachia region.

    Because certainly water that is the color of blood when it comes out of the tap must be safe to drink along with air smelling like sulfur must be safe to breathe.

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  8. John Mashey says:

    Such arguments fall into the performance of large organizations in implementing policy or laws.

    1) it is impossible to staff a large organization with star performers. Large organizations (like the US Army, the old Bell System, etc) know this. Attaining perfection is hard, the closest I can think of was Adm, Rickover and nuclear submarines, where the only thing good enough was perfection.

    2) Human performance tends to be normally distributed (or perhaps lognormally for some tasks), which means that:
    a) Some people will implement policies sensibly, productively, efficiently.
    b) Some people won’t, and one can guarantee that the worst 1% of numerous actions will be screwups.

    3) Hence, anyone who does not like what an organization does will tend to focus on the worst 1%, which are anecdotal, may even be true.

    4) The real test of an organization is:
    a) Does it train people well enough to raise the average performance?
    b) Does it have processes to minimize the likelihood of bad outcomes?
    c) Does it have appeal/corrective processes to fix the inevitable screwups?

    When we build computer hardware, it generally works despite low-level hardware errors … because we build for that. People have argued to apply the same sort of systems engineering to hospitals, see Internal Bleeding.

    At Bell Labs, we did software and hardware that tracked causes of problems in the cables from switches to subscribers, such as squirrel-bites, gunshots (in some parts of country), etc. A big cause was always man-made-problem, where one repair had messed up something else. People were fanatic about safety issues, well before OSHA even got started … not just because it was ethical, but because it was good business and we depended on well-trained workers. Not everybody thinks this way.

    But, I’d guess that generally, OSHA and EPA have done mostly OK, but I’d guarantee there will be screwups.

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  9. Jim says:

    Ed, Nick…

    Please stop offering substantive links, reference to reputable journalistic sources, accepted statistics and common sense.

    You see, he “heard it from a friend”.

    You have both just been…PWNED (as the kids say).

    No, seriously…that is one of the great problems with most conservatives and even some liberals. They “heard it somewhere”.

    Take, for instance, the “never say die” urban legend about the morbidly obese black woman whipping out a roll of food stamps at the grocery store. She usually has six or seven children with her but is using those food stamps to buy cartons of cigarettes, malt liquor and maybe a few other “essentials” (it varies depending on the version) like condoms, morning after pills, rolling paper, hard liquor or razor blades (which will undoubtedly be used to make some sort of weapon).

    Occasionally, this character does buy food. But as the story goes, it’s either extremely unhealthy junk food or — sometimes — watermelon, ribs and collard greens. And the teller of the tale typically adds, “At least she bought SOME food”.

    She usually makes a big scene, is rude to white store employees and leaves the store in a tricked-out Cadillac Escalade. (Undoubtedly purchased with a combination of crack cocaine and food stamps.)

    Of course, what we know is that in all 50 states, one cannot purchase liquor or tobacco with food stamps. In many, even tighter restrictions are placed on the sort of food purchased — veggies and infant formula good; twinkies not so much.

    But that won’t change the urban legend. Because you know, the teller heard it from a friend he knows to be reliable…who would never exaggerate. And occasionally, he will swear that he saw it himself. Indeed, he has probably so convinced himself it is true, that he actually believes he DID see it.

    My point?

    If someone tells you the jackbooted thugs came to a factory one day and shut it down because the workers weren’t getting their 9th cigarette break of the day…or if OSHA showed up and seized all the firm’s assets because a little paint spilled…of if the EPA singlehandedly put 10-thousand people out of work on an assembly line because a rare species of spider was found in the men’s crapper…well…

    …it just MUST be true.

    You guys have statistics and scholarly sources. Big whoop.

    They have talk radio and Uncle Billy Bob’s razor-sharp memory.

    You guys don’t stand a chance.

    And there you have it!

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  10. Ed Darrell says:

    ” If the stream was not so deep as to require a boat, why did the company agree to buy it? I doubt the story. ”

    I doubt you have dealt with OSHA. You don’t get to agree or disagree. They tell you what you are going to do and that’s it . They don’t care if the solution bankrupts you . They don’t care if it sounds like the stupidest thing you have ever heard . They make the IRS look sane .

    It’s illegal for an agency to be so arbitrary as you paint them, Alan. Among other things, there is a clear appeals process with OSHA. Inspectors are not allowed to make up rules on the spot. A business may decide to do something stupid instead of asking what regulation is involved and how a boat that won’t float is supposed to help do anything, but any business is entitled to ask the question, and OSHA is obligated to explain. Here’s OSHA’s 2002 brochure explaining their procedures, for example — these rules have been in place as Congress required in the early 1980s:

    Closing conference

    At the conclusion of the inspection, the compliance officer conducts a closing conference with the employer, employees, and/or the employees’ representative.

    The compliance officer gives the employer and all other parties involved a copy of Employer Rights and Responsibilities Following an OSHA Inspection (OSHA 3000) for their review and discussion.

    The compliance officer discusses with the employer all unsafe or unhealthful conditions observed during the inspection and indicates all apparent violations for which he or she may issue or recommend a citation and a proposed penalty. The compliance officer will not indicate any specific proposed penalties but will inform the employer of appeal rights.

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  11. Jim writes:
    What’s more expensive: have a well-inspected and safe assembly line, or having to pay millions in compensation because the line was never inspected and a worker lost a limb?

    But Jim, you forgot that if right wingers had their way people would not be able to sue companies for such things.

    If you have such a problem with regulations, Alan, I have a proposal for you.

    I’d be perfectly willing to support a law that dictates that your land and the land within a half mile radius of your house is a regulation free zone.

    Well? Actually lets make it a mile radius around your house. That way plenty of businesses can move there and whoever else as well as you will have plenty of land to do whatever you want on it.

    Well I suppose there would have to be one or two caveats. No murder, no rape, no growing illegal drugs and no setting up terrorist training camps. But other then that, any business or whatever can do whatever it wants there.

    Deal?

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  12. Tell me Alan, which state would you rather live in?

    State 1:
    Unemployment rate: 7.6%
    Poverty rate: 10%
    Percentage of uninsured: 5.3%
    Percentage of Students at or above proeficient in National Assessment 8th grade scores of Educational Progress Math exam: 52%
    Same as above for Reading: 43%
    Violent crime rate: 432 per 100,000 people
    Murder rate: 2.6 per 100,000 people
    Divorce rate: 1.8 per 1,000 people
    Teen pregnancy rate: 49 per 1,000

    State 2:
    Unemployment rate: 8.4%
    Poverty rate: 15.8%
    Percentage of uninsured: 27.1%
    Percentage of Students at or above proeficient in National Assessment 8th grade scores of Educational Progress Math exam: 36%
    Same as above for Reading: 27%
    Violent crime rate: 511 per 100,000 people
    Murder rate: 5.4 per 100,000 people
    Divorce rate: 5.4 per 1,000 people
    Teen pregnancy rate: 88 per 1,000

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  13. And what do you think getting rid of OSHA would accomplish, Alan?

    Do you honestly think that business owners would make sure their workplaces are safe voluntarily? You are aware of what Massey Energy did with a certain coal mine that is in, as I recall, West Virginia right? Or BP and a certain oil platform in the Gulf?

    Yeah that’s the problem with your side. It keeps on coming up with anecdotal “evidence” that if it actually happened it’s the rare experience and not the norm. But your side pretends it is the norm and then acts as if getting of all regulation is a good idea.

    Having a safe working place is expensive…and it is necessary. And I would argue the country has gotten a lot more money back for that than what would happen if you got your wish. After all..safe and healthy workers are more productive workers.

    We tried your right wing bullsh–, Alan, for 40 years now. The only thing that has happened is the poor have gotten poorer, the middle class has been stagnant and the rich are running away with all the money.

    Enough is enough..your side is wrong. It is as simple as that.

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  14. Jim says:

    Hi Alan!

    Thanks for stopping in.

    Your story, if true, is one of what must hundreds of thousands over the years since OSHA was established. Add what you heard from a friend, and that’s two. Anecdotes are, at best, very minimally informative.

    My experience with OSHA has been quite positive. But there again, that’s anecdotal. Where is the hard evidence that the agency makes the workplace more expensive? What’s more expensive: have a well-inspected and safe assembly line, or having to pay millions in compensation because the line was never inspected and a worker lost a limb?

    There may be certain areas where OSHA could stand some reform. The axiom, “mended, not ended” is often helpful. I heartily commend it to both sides.

    But bottom line, what was life like before OSHA? Or before the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts? How about before the FDA?

    Liberals tend to get pigeonholed as — at best — well-meaning folk who are working for some sort of utopia. While I think that’s probably an overstatement as regards our grasp of reality, I’ll still own it…as long as we can pigeonhole conservatives as believing that Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” or modern Somalia represent their brand of “utopia”.

    I’ll take my dream over yours.

    Peace!

    Jim

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  15. Alan Scott says:

    Ed Darrell,

    ” If the stream was not so deep as to require a boat, why did the company agree to buy it? I doubt the story. ”

    I doubt you have dealt with OSHA. You don’t get to agree or disagree. They tell you what you are going to do and that’s it . They don’t care if the solution bankrupts you . They don’t care if it sounds like the stupidest thing you have ever heard . They make the IRS look sane .

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  16. Ed Darrell says:

    If the stream was not so deep as to require a boat, why did the company agree to buy it? I doubt the story.

    Yes, I’ve dealt with OSHA extensively, in oversight and as a compliance officer for a corporation. I never found them seriously unreasonable.

    Nor did I find any of the old horror stories to hold water on inspection. Urban hoaxes.

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  17. Alan Scott says:

    Gentlemen,

    Have any of you ever, ever had to deal with OSHA ? I have. They are the biggest bunch of moronic jerks, you will ever meet. In the 1980s they came into an old industrial plant I was employed in . Their inspectors and regulations would drive anyone to drink . They do not make a work place safer, they make it a lot more expensive.

    Well that was decades ago, what about now ? A construction friend told me that his firm was working on a project above a small stream. OSHA came in and made them purchase a small boat in case some one fell into the stream . He said the depth of the water would have barely floated the boat.

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  18. And then there is the Koch brothers, more then a few of their peers, and their willing slaves the Republican party who think business executives should be allowed to rape, pillage and plunder the people and the planet on whim.

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  19. John Mashey says:

    Unless business executives are purposefully in the “privatize profits / socialize the losses and risks” business, many are happy to have “reasonable” regulation so they they can do what they think is right on a level playing field, i.e., not losing advantage to competitors who are cheating.

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