Safety Red Tape

Some extracts from one of my favourite discussions on Graham Dent’s Work Health Safety (OHS) Harmonisation (Australia) on LinkedIn:

I am tired of the old “red tape” destroying productivity – crushing business – eroding competitiveness clichés – come on media, business – get a balance !

The Australian carries another story about “red tape” today – blazing headline “Red tape blamed for lack of growth” [see link (1) below), colourful photo with a huge bundle of files tangled in red tape beside a bewildered looking man. No doubt prompted by yesterday’s AIG Media release [see link (2) below]

“Companies said that too much regulatory compliance was “stifling workplace productivity” and posed a barrier to employing more staff… The survey found that companies were spending 4 per cent of total annual expenditure on compliance costs … The rise in compliance costs had been driven by bigger demands related to OHS issues, environment protection and taxation.”
“What is painfully clear is the enormous burden business regulation is having on Australia’s already lagging productivity,” AIG CEO Heather Ridout said.

► Comment:
What is wrong with all these statements?? Lack of balance. They are empty rhetoric unless they are made specific and subject to a cost benefit analysis.

OK, lets wind back red tape –
■ Lets make it open slather, its up to employees to bargain in individual contracts not only for their pay, but any safety entitlements – oh, and take away workers comp the right to sue for damages for personal injury as well
■ Lets get rid of the controls on asbestos – oh the good old days when James Hardie was riding the crest of the wave on the magic new product “asbestos” – all those regulations almost killed off a solid Australian … US .. Dutch … sorry where are they these days ? .. business
■ Why should business have to pay to pump waste into the rivers, sewers and the sea, why should it have to pay to pump noxious emissions into the atmosphere or burn and bury toxic waste – the environment is free isn’t it – they don’t do it in many third world countries – its political correctness gone mad

Why do the articles on red tape always talk about COST but NEVER discuss the BENEFITS to our standard of living, quality of life, safety, the future of our children and their children.

It is just patently shallow, empty, cheap sensationalist journalism. Did the journalist bother to look back a week at the RIS on the new WHS laws – and the massive public health benefits? Did the journalist think to look at the Productivity Commission reports on OHS costs to industry – NOT THE COST of regulation – but the cost of people being maimed, poisoned and killed every day. Wouldn’t it have been a far better article if the journalist had tackled the AIG and drilled down into some of the tired old clichés??

“Red tape” is a business mantra, a bumper sticker which trivialises major social issues.

I like this article from the UK [see (3) below], which I think was drawn to my attention some time ago in a blog from Kevin Jones (SafetyAtWork) “Which notes amongst other matters that: Almost every mention of red tape, it seems, refers to a law. .. It appears the definition of red tape is laws that businesses don’t like.”

And on the impact of health and safety laws – “No one would ever have built the Roman Empire if they’d had to worry about repetitive strain injury to galley slaves or the possible stress caused by being a gladiator.”

And of course look at the regulatory costs imposed on people just trying to improve their skills “among the most ridiculous examples of red tape is the restriction that students now have to pay £9000 a year to be allowed into university, and this sort of politically correct nonsense must be scrapped at once.” So why doesn’t the AIG campaign to abolish Uni fees in Australia – make us a smarter nation?

(1) See” The Australian
(2) AIG Media Release on Red Tape
(3) ‘Britain: When in doubt, blame red tape’

and more…………………

EURO SAFETY LAWS – dragging UK down
Spotted this gem in an article on the Euro crisis bemoaning the Euro laws which apply in the UK:
“Try running a small company under the present employment laws, health and safety regulations and the like, much of it emanating from the supposed fount of our prosperity – Brussels.
Do you imagine that Chinese businesses labour under such burdens?”
And then the article moves on to discuss further economic issues. Once again safety is dismissed as a costly burdensome regulation without even a fleeting consideration of what the laws are there for.
And of course China has such an enviable safety record – the following figures are a little dated but illustrate the point:
“The number of deaths caused by industrial accidents in China has gone up by 9 per cent compared to the same period last year, according to official figures released on Thursday.
Accidents in mines and factories killed 11,449 people in the first nine months of 2003, despite a nationwide safety crackdown.
Fatalities were down slightly in China’s coal mines, but the number of deaths in non-mining industries rose by 19.1 percent, to 5,203.” ….
Some analysts blame the rise in accidents on China’s shift to a market-style economy.
“Workers are working longer hours since state owned industries were privatised, and they have no knowledge of health and safety issues,” said Han Dongfang, director of the China Labour Bulletin, based in Hong Kong.
Some analysts blame the rise in accidents on China’s shift to a market-style economy.
“Workers are working longer hours since state owned industries were privatised, and they have no knowledge of health and safety issues,” said Han Dongfang, director of the China Labour Bulletin, based in Hong Kong.”
MESSAGE: If you hold strong views on safety my view is NEVER let throw away foolish lines like the one reported above go without challenging them. Hold the simplistic bumper sticker slogan pedlars to account.
(1) Better a strong Britain than a place at Europe’s top table
(2) Workplace deaths rise in China
For a more academic and detailed assessment of OHS in China see: OHS in China: The Case of State-Managed Enterprises

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