Screaming Into The Abyss

Freedom Versus Safety
By Ben Zvan
On August 22, 2011 at 08:56

Safety FirstI'm afraid you might be in for a bit of a rambling rant.

On 19 August, 2011, 4 people died at a the Pukkelpop Music Festival in Hasselt Belgium, just 5 days after 4 people were killed by a collapsing stage at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis.

To me, this is a fine example of "build it cheap, get it done, and damn the consequences," a mentality that penetrates any money-making operation. It is also a fine opportunity to discus why we have safety regulations and why they should be enforced.

I would think that restaurants would welcome health inspectors, that factories would welcome safety inspectors, and that construction contractors would welcome building inspectors. I would think that these companies would understand that injuring or killing their customers or employees would not be the desired outcome of their business transactions.

Sadly, as @arclight said on Twitter last night "Every industrial safety regulation can be traced back to at least one headstone."

And from @CaerwynFarm: "You would be surprised how often I have to answer a request at work with "Cuz it is F'ing illegal!"

In the US, it took until 1971 for the government to set up the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Since then the rate of reported serious workplace injuries and illnesses has declined from 11 per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.6 per 100 workers in 2009. There are no accurate statistics from 1970, but it is estimated around 70 workers were killed on the job per 1,000,000 US residents. That number fell to approximately 14 per 1,000,000 in 2009.

If you're a Republican or Libertarian (and if you are why are you reading this?) you'll be about to say something like "I guess you want to live in a nanny state. I, quite frankly, am tired of the one I live in." Which...I your least to say...but it also makes you a complete ass. How can you possibly feel that employers have the "freedom" to kill their workers or that builders have the "freedom" to kill their customers? The plain fact is that people who profit from cutting corners need nannies to stop them from hurting people for profit.

I find it ironic that the ideology that feels employers should be allowed to maintain unsafe workplaces is the same ideology that feels workers should not be allowed to collectively bargain. Most of the people buying a company's two-bit products probably care less about the people who made them than the company does.

Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose. Your right not to wear a motorcycle helmet ends at your family suing me for your death in a crash. Your right to build with cheap materials ends at my right not to die when your building falls on me.

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