We longÂ been hearingÂ moans and groans from many in the business community about how OSHA rules stiffle the economy, or worse, from employers who insist thatÂ following OSHA rules will cost themÂ jobs.Â Â The sad truth is the exact opposite:Â failing to meet basic health and safetyÂ standards can shutter the doors of your business.Â Â Just look at what was announced by ConAgra last weekÂ about their Slim Jim plant near Garner, NC, the site of massive explosion in June that killed three workers.Â Â They areÂ laying-off more than 300 workers.Â In the words of the USW’s Jim Frederick:
“The old myth:Â if we make the boss follow OSHA rulesÂ it will cost us jobs.Â Or is it theÂ inverse?:Â if we donât make the boss follow OSHA rules it will cost us jobs.”
The GarnerCitizen.com reports in “ConAgra plans layoffs”:
“The company says the job cuts are directly connected to the June 9 accident.Â ‘It was a very difficult decision,’ company spokesman Dave Jackson said.Â ‘We didnât want to do it, but at the same time we can only produce about half of the product that we did prior to the accident.’Â The company met in a town hall meeting with 600 employeesÂ [on] Sept. 16 to inform them of the layoffs.Â Since the accident, the company has been paying all employees who are unable to work for 40 hours a week. Those payments stopped, however, as of Monday, Sept. 21.”
That part of the story is terrible enough, but theÂ full toll of the disaster is worse still.Â The GarnerCitizen. com reportsÂ that 70 workers—-70 workers—are still off-work because of the injuries they sufferedÂ in the June 9 explosion.Â Â The direct cost of thoseÂ disabilities are huge, say nothing of the social and other indirect costs for theÂ workers and their families.Â Â
I hope under the new regime at OSHA and OIRA, that the broadest definition of cost forÂ failing to preventÂ deaths and disability is built into the agency’s regulatory flexibility analyses.Â Â They can look to the work ofÂ Â Professor Les Boden (here, here, here), Professor Al Dembe here, and others for insight on “costs” of work-related injuries that don’t make it into typical cost-benefit calculations.Â This includes: being forced out of a chosen trade, demands on family members to cut back on school or paid work to care for the injured or take on more household duties, uncompensated injury-related costs, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.Â Better yet, we should figure out a simple mechanism for these 70 injured ConAgra workers and injured workers from around the country to share their own data with OSHA on the costsÂ to their family of this disaster.Â Â Those are economic and social burdens thatÂ will drawf the other side of the traditionalÂ cost equation.