On Safety

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The job-killer paradox

July 10, 2015
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One of the common refrains from industry when a new safety rule is proposed is that the rule will be a “job killer.” But if that’s the case, why are the rules often supported by labor organizations?

This paradox was voiced during a conversation I had with Mike Wright, director of health, safety and environment for United Steelworkers. We were talking about OSHA’s proposed rule on silica, and claims from the industry that the new rule would hurt businesses and result in job cuts.

Wright said those assumptions aren’t rooted in any evidence. If they were, USW and other unions likely wouldn’t support the rule.

“We’re the ones whose jobs they are,” Wright said. “If anybody suffers job cuts, it’s going to be us.”

In most cases, he claimed, OSHA regulations have actually led to an increase in jobs. For example, a new OSHA rule requiring tighter controls of occupational exposures might necessitate ventilation equipment or better enclosures. Someone has to design and build those engineering controls, and that means jobs.

Wright admits some bad regulations could result in job losses, and shifting of jobs is always possible. But, he asserts, safety and health regulations still result in a net increase in jobs.

What do you think? Do you know of anyone who has lost a job because of safety and health regulations, or do you know an employer whose business has grown due to new rules? Let me know in the comments below.

The opinions expressed in "On Safety" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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