Tuesday, December 23, 2003

NY Times Editorial

As Barstow's articles indicate, OSHA has problems, according to the NY Times Editorial Page:
But one factor dominates: a cultural resistance by not only the agency but also society as a whole to the idea that workplace deaths can in fact be criminal acts. This reluctance helps explain the inability of the family of Patrick Walters — a plumber's apprentice who was buried alive and the subject of the series' opening article on Sunday — to persuade OSHA to recommend the case to prosecutors. And it is why the case of two dead dairy-farm workers described in today's installment would probably have gone nowhere were it not for the persistence of a California prosecutor.

OSHA's culture cries out for reform. Congress should find out why more cases are not referred to the Justice Department, and should consider toughening the law by making "willful violations" that kill people a felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years instead of making it a misdemeanor. The current law, combined with OSHA's passivity, seems to have little deterrent effect.
It's actually not a "cultural resistance" as much as it's an antiregulatory, business-can-do-no-wrong political ideology.

But more on that later.