Friday, May 15, 2009

Worker Nanny

Worker safety does not get the same attention from the government here as it does in the USA. I see tile workers cutting tile with no eye protection. Heavy labor being done in sandals. High altitude work with no safety harnesses. Welding being done bare eyed.
Factories have little regard for workers being exposed to hazardous chemicals, dust, or dangerous machinery.
Back in my youth I worked at a ski area. This was in the 70’s and early 80’s. We climbed ski towers that were covered in ice in high winds with nothing more to protect us from falling than the knowledge that we could get messed up pretty badly if we fell. The work place was different then. People got hurt and killed in a more regular basis.
Mill workers lost fingers, choker setters got squashed, anyone working in a loud environment went deaf, and people fell off stuff.
Today the US has a super nanny to keep workers safe, OSHA (Occupational, Health and Safety Administration). In the last 25 years they have done great things to make workers safe, and then went about 20 steps too far to become a meddling, burdensome pest. Kind of like a bad mother in law, except they can and do levy big fines for all kinds of “safety violations”. Now you can get a big fine if your workers are working up high without ropes and harnesses, and you should be. You can also get a fine for a lot of questionable violations.
For example, take the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets). Every chemical in America has an MSDS. This can be very good. If you get some nasty solvent on your skin, you can refer to the MSDS to see what you should do. Every employer has to have a book with MSDS on all its chemicals available to all employees. This can include things like gasoline, solvents, paints, cleaners, pesticides, and glues. OK that seems reasonable. It also includes things like hand soap and dry erase markers. So you have a book store and in your restroom you have liquid hand soap, and you have some sharpies to label things, white out, and an ink pad, and an OSHA inspector springs a surprise inspection you better have MSDS on all this stuff or you are in for an expensive fine.
There are many other examples of this bureaucracy run amok, just ask any employer who has been inspected.. Yes people are safer in the work place, including that book store employee who is allergic to white out.
In China the government could care less if you fell 10 stories off of a bamboo scaffolding, but in the US, someone is staying up at night worrying about the .0002% of the workforce who could have a toxic reaction to Pink Pearl hand soap.
It is interesting to see how the citizens of our countries differ from each other because of the role that the government takes in assuring the safety of its people. Chinese people are very self reliant. They are also very tough. Not a lot of whiners here. Nobody's listening.
How about Americans? Do we want someone taking care of us all the time? Since we live in a democracy, I would venture to say that we do. Sometimes I think that we want to not have to take responsibility for our lives, though. We should be able to know that if you get some soap in your eye, you rinse it out with water.

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