Bargaining For Job Safety and Health
In 1977, a grain elevator explosion in Westwego, Louisiana, took the lives of thirty-five workers. The next year, fifty-one men who were working on cooling tower for a West Viginia power plant died when their support scaffolding collapsed. And more recently, a Senate subcommittee hearing revealed that the incidence of lung cancer among uranium miners is nearly four times the national average rate for men of the same age. Clearly, as Lawrence Bacow writes in this book, occupational safety and health is a big problem that may be getting bigger.
What can be done about it? This book argues that OSHA is not up to the task. Most accidents are caused by hazards that are unique to individual firms. A single regulatory authority like OSHA cannot be everywhere at once; it lacks the resources needed to ferret out firm-specific hazards and to ensure day-to-day compliance with health and safety regulations. If government is to make the workplace safe, it must enlist the help of the parties that have the greatest influence over safety and health on the job—labor and management.
Bargaining for Job Safety and Health examines how labor and management work together and against each other to abate occupational hazards. It describes OSHA's influence, both positive and negative, over collective bargaining on health and safety issues. Through a series of case studies in develops a theory to explain why some unions are more aggressive than others in pursuing health and safety objectives. The book also outlines strategies that OSHA might take to encourage labor and management to assume a larger role in curbing job hazards through collective bargaining.
Although it focuses on job safety and health, this book draws a number of very interesting parallels between OSHA and other types of regulatory programs. It should interest a wide audience, including labor and management officials, health and safety professionals, policymakers, labor relations scholars, and others interested in regulatory reform and program design.
About the Author
Lawrence Bacow is President of Tufts University and the former Chancellor of MIT.
"Bacow challenges the prevailing view that government regulation alone can effect a significant lowering of job hazards. After detailing the technical, economic, political, and administrative difficulties involved in overcoming shopfloor accidents and health problems, he evaluates the performance of... OSHA, and finds it wanting. Labor-management collective bargaining can be used effectively to supplement OSHA's work, but other strategies are also needed for the many non-union workplaces. At best, the public must lower its expectations of what can be achieved."—Library Journal
"Lawrence Bacow has written an ambitious book related to a timely subject: the assessment of government regulation and proposals for reform. The specific topic he addresses is occupational safety and health, but the issues he discusses relate to many other government policies. Anyone interested in the general subject of government regulation should find this book informative..."—Policy Sciences