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Legislation to Reduce Work Force Deaths

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Essay title: Legislation to Reduce Work Force Deaths

Over the past one hundred years there has been an amazing decrease in work related fatalities in all of the major industry divisions. Mining, Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, Construction, Transportation, Communications, and Public utilities have all seen decreases of around fifty percent just since the early 1980s. (MMWR, 1999) These decreases can be traced to many historic pieces of legislation such as the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act (1969) and the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act (1977). The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), as well as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Together these two organizations have worked tirelessly to reduce the amount of workers that are injured and killed while on the job. While I normally do not believe that more laws are the way to make things happen in this country, I must admit that past legislation has proved to be extremely effective in reducing work force related injuries and deaths. I do however have a bit of reservation about the findings of a group that has “extensive ties to organized labor.” (Gonzalez, 2005) I believe that some of the recommendations make sense, and that others seem to be rehashes of current laws with current spin on anti-immigration sentiment thrown in for good measure.

I must first start off with the discussion of risk and safety. There is risk in everything we do, from walking down the street at night to putting soldiers lives at risk when they go to war. Risk is just a part of everyday life, and while some activities are riskier than others it will always be present. Safety is another interesting subject. One can be extremely safe in everything they do. In fact a person could be almost completely safe if they never got out of bed in the morning, but what would that person ever accomplish? We have tamed entire continents, traveled to the moon, and the deepest parts of the ocean, but we were not safe while we did those things. There are many things that are worth doing that are not in any way shape or form safe, yet we do them anyway! I bring this up only to point out that this will never be a safe world, not while things are being done to make it better, so some risk will always have to be accepted.

The first recommendation that the Human Rights Watch makes is that there should be better laws to reduce production line speeds. This is a rather subjective recommendation. Obviously at some point it becomes ridiculous to continue to slow down the speeds of the lines. You could stop them altogether and never have a single accident. From a Utilitarian perspective it makes sense to have the lines at a speed at which the highest output can be maintained while minimizing accidents. By keeping the line speed high enough the company can make money, continue to pay employees, and serve its customers the product at a lower cost, making all involved happier over a longer period of time. A Deontological aspect of this argument is that there is a contractual right that the employee has for a safe working environment, and the employer has the duty to provide it as best he can. So obviously a balance has to be reached on the speed of the lines with respect to production and injury reduction.

The next recommendation made by Human Rights Watch is for stronger state regulations to halt the underreporting of injuries. There is an obvious Deontological concern with this argument in respect to civil rights. This country has made worker mishap reduction a high enough priority over the past 100 years that laws were written to give rights to this class of people. By trying to make an end-run around these laws, employers are neglecting their duties to the employees and the state by not fully reporting the injuries that occur in there companies. Utilitarians would argue that if under reporting is allowed to continue that most workers would not feel that they are being properly protected from harm, which could possibly reduce the amount of work that they complete. In the end this would cause a greater majority of people to be unhappy, and hence is not an optimal situation where business is concerned.

Another recommendation that is made in the reading is for the enforcement of anti-retaliation laws. This makes complete sense using the same arguments that were made in the last paragraph. If workers are not confident that they can report the injuries that they have or witness without repercussions the system of laws and enforcement of them will break down causing many to become unhappy with their working situation.

The final recommendation from the report is for new laws to be written that ensure worker’s

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