Is Safety a Burden?

| March 6, 2012

This post is in honor of the “Super Tuesday” elections.

Occupational safety and health is taking a hit from the politicians. 

One of the constant refrains from the Republican presidential hopefuls is that safety and health regulations are strangling business.  Or, as UK Prime Minister David Cameron put it in a recent speech – “the excessive culture of safety and health that is dragging down business like a heavy wooden yoke.”  

Are safety regulations burdensome to business?

Of course they are.

They limit what businesses can do.  Fundamentally, they transfer the costs and risks associated with being hurt on the job back to the businesses that benefit from the labor of the individuals who have been – or at risk of – being injured.

The question isn’t whether occupational injuries and illnesses have costs.  They do.

The fundamental issue is who should pay and, more importantly, when and how the costs should be incurred. 

The real question is – “Should there be costs to businesses associated with prevention of injuries and illnesses (i.e. regulatory schemes) or should the costs be incurred by the employees who are injured or killed?”

It seems that many businesses and political leaders believe there should be no prevention and workers should bear the full cost of their injuries – not employers. 

Their view – Forget about prevention; forget about compensation. 

Like the mantra of “buyer beware” for consumers, they seem prefer a culture of “worker beware” when it comes to safety.  In their view, workers should bear the risks of injury; businesses and society should not.  David Cameron put it this way – safety culture is “nothing more than a straitjacket on personal initiative and responsibility.” (For more on his rant against safety regulations click here.)

Never mind the point that many employees have little meaningful way of actually preventing workplace injuries.

To David Cameron’s real point (setting aside the rhetoric) – “Are there safety regulations that are too burdensome?”

Again, of course.

Every safety professional has his or her own list of silly regulations – requirements that do not meaningfully contribute to improving safety (i.e. reducing the risk of injury). 

HOWEVER – hyperbole is not helpful – except perhaps for politicians who want to get elected or solidify their power base.

What would be helpful is a collaborative effort to eliminate “stupid rules” AND to put in place meaningful ones.

 What’s needed are rules that save lives, prevent diseases, and, just as importantly, provide the transparency needed to actually evaluate whether companies are preventing injuries and ill health or simply transferring the costs and risks to workers, their families and society at large.

© ENLAR Compliance Services, Inc. (2012)

Category: OHS Laws & Legal Compliance

Comments (0)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.

Comments are closed.