Workplace health and safety regulations not only save lives, they benefit the economy, the USA’s top safety official said yesterday.
In stark contrast to the UK’s government’s stance on health and safety in the workplace, David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), said:
‘Despite concerns about the effect of regulation on American business, there is clear evidence that OSHA’s commonsense regulations have made working conditions in this country today far safer than 40 years ago when the agency was created, while at the same time protecting American jobs.
The truth is that OSHA standards don’t kill jobs. They stop jobs from killing workers. OSHA standards don’t just prevent worker injuries and illnesses. They also drive technological innovation, making industries more competitive.’
Speaking ahead of a Republican-driven formal government committee hearing ‘Investigating OSHA’s regulatory agenda and its impact on job creation’, Dr Michaels said: ‘Many OSHA standards cost little and easily can be adopted by employers with nominal effect on the bottom line. OSHA, by law and by practice, always looks at both the overall cost of compliance with a proposed regulation and at the expected benefits. The evidence shows that OSHA generally overestimates the cost of its standards.
Congress’ Office of Technology Assessment, comparing the predicted and actual costs of eight OSHA regulations, found that in almost all cases ‘industries that were most affected achieved compliance straightforwardly, and largely avoided the destructive economic effects’ that they feared.’
He concluded ‘OSHA’s job isn’t over. More than 3 million workers in America are injured every year. Every day 12 workers die on the job. OSHA’s commonsense regulations are helping to drive these numbers down and, at the same time, helping American businesses modernise and compete in the global economy.’
At a time workplace safety campaigners are on the back foot in the UK, we implore the government to take heed of the US example and in its own words, apply ‘commonsense to common safety’, as it purported to do last year when Lord Young was comissioned to review health and safety regulations.
Unfortunately, when the noble Lord took careful aim at the so-called ‘compensation culture’ and hit the wrong target, the government rushed to congratulate him (as he had produced the justification for draconian budget cuts) and quickly began the systematic dismantling of the regulations that protect workers’ lives and help industry become more – not less – competitive.
Bonnar & Company is very concerned about the dilution of health and safety legislation in the UK and we lend our voice to those campaigning on behalf of worker safety.