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House committee priorities: Where’s safety?

November 17, 2014

Rep. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, recently laid out his priorities for the upcoming Congress.

In a Nov. 11 video (see below), Kline stood before a backdrop of school-age children doing homework, and he lists stagnant wages and a lack of job growth as problems that concern Americans.

Kline committed to improving education and job creation, but he left out one important priority: worker safety.

Employers, the congressman said, are worried about how they can run a successful business in the face of new federal rules. Thousands of pages of federal regulations costing tens of billions of dollars have been issued in this year alone, Kline said, prompting Americans to tell him they hope Washington “just gets out of the way.”

“How can employers create jobs and raise wages when they’re tied up in red tape?” Kline asked with a shrug.

The approach Kline takes in the video is straight from the Republican playbook: Regulations harm businesses and economic growth, which costs employees jobs or raises. I’ve talked about this perceived dichotomy between safety regulations and poor economic growth before, and it’s just as misconceived now as it was then.

Regulations don’t necessarily impede job creation. Americans certainly want more employment and raises, and Congress should do what they can to help with that. But shouldn’t ensuring safe jobs be a priority for Washington, too?

When I reached out to Kline’s staff with the Education and the Workforce Committee, a spokesperson assured me Kline “absolutely believes” in the importance of “responsible” regulations to promote worker health and safety. The spokesperson pointed to the committee’s support of recent OSHA actions to protect telecommunications workers, something the committee pushed for three years ago.

“Worker health and safety will certainly be a part of the committee’s efforts to help our nation’s workplaces thrive through more certainty and flexibility,” the spokesperson said in an email.

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

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