Thursday, October 23, 2008

the new banality of workplace safety

Conor Friedersdorf approvingly links to John Henke questioning the need for further workplace safety regulation. Peter Suderman publishes a pretty goofy memo from a government agency concerning employee safety.

People in me, Conor and Peter's age bracket, of course, have lived our entire lives during a period when there are robust governmental institutions to ensure safe and healthy workplace conditions. It's easy for younger people to question these institutions because they have the luxury of living in a world where they don't understand the consequences of not having them. It's precisely like parents who don't immunize their children; the incredible power of immunization is what allows them the ignorance of not understanding what these disease can do. Younger people have never lived in a country where, say, people who work at matchstick dipping factories inhale toxic chemicals every single day. Are there silly situations like the memo Suderman publishes? Sure. But you know what? If you're trying to pick an example of government failing, workplace safety is among the worst examples you can pick. Government actually has been wildly successful in promoting workplace safety, and in creating institutions capable of providing restitution to those who are hurt on the job. Both of those things have been vigorously opposed by conservatives at various times; both are absolutely essential to the American work experience. And if young conservatives weren't lucky enough to live in a period where those protections are guaranteed, they might recognize how privileged we are.

I would invite Henke or Peter or Conor to, say, take a tour of duty in a coal mine, and report back their feelings on workplace safety regulations.

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