What are your views regarding the cost of OSHA enforcement, compared to the actual benefit in reduced worker injury/illness/death?

Being in a non-OSHA state, Louisiana, we still deal with OSHA rules and regs that have been adopted. We learn, especially in Confined Space Rescue and Hazmat, several of the CFRs. At each one of our stations we have the OSHA posters on the bulletin boards about worker benefits and all the stuff that is set forth to protect us.
However, in the long run, do you feel that the actual costs of having this government organization out there policing rules and regs and coming up with new ones is actually beneficial compared to the number of reduced on the job injuries/illnesses/deaths?
At a time when the economy is such distress should our government still be pouring money into this organization, or is just another money pit? Thoughts, feelings, opinions, personal experiences? If you have any please share.

-Jonathan LCFD

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An ounce of prevention is cheaper than a pound of cure.

Safety is an investment, not a cost. It is a means of giving employees the tools and knowledge to take personal responsibility for their own occupational health.

When investigating success and failures of OSHA, one should examine specific regs. OSHA has published an entire page worth of success stories, which can be accessed here.

That's a lot of literature. If I were to recommend just one, it would be this one: "The Business Case for Safety" - it is an exposition on how safety programs save money, increase profitability, and promote excellence. While its lessons are drawn from private, for-profit enterprises some of these lessons can be applied to the EMS and fire service.

FWIW, OSHA's total FY 2009 budget was $513M - less than one B-2 Stealth bomber.
Worker safety laws are written in blood. I'll be the first to agree that the rules are often overkill and applied at random with a shotgun, but without them you would have a lot more people injured or killed on the job. Spend a bit of time out of the West and you would be amazed at the number of people injured on the job. If you are hurt, you're fired and on your own.

Oddly, the same people who oppose worker safety laws often also favour tort reform and are opposed to government disability payments.
Ralph I totally agree in having these rules, regs, policies, procedures, guidelines, etc. in place regardless of the cost. I just have to have these discussions when I teach classes and I always get mixed opinions from everyone. I thought I'd look to FFN to see what people's views were out here.
Here is one big thing that is brought up quite a bit though. Some "fat cat" industries find it cheaper to pay the fees/fines from OSHA than it is to bring their companies into compliance. In this case, they aren't following the rules/regs they are just buying their way out of it.
I always reply with, "Regardless of how great of an idea someone has, there is always going to be someone out there to find something wrong with it. And any time a rule is put into place, someone is going to find a way around it. It's the nature of man(kind) to adapt and prevail. As the saying goes, build a better mouse trap and a better mouse will come along!"

I must say I do VERY MUCH appreciate your extensive post along with the resources. I will be saving those sources and quoting them everytime from now on whenever the discussion arises about the point in OSHA. Thank you Daniel.
It depends upon how you keep score. If you keep score in human lives, then OSHA enforcement wins, hands down. If you keep score in money, OSHA still wins. The cost of reasonable prevention in hazmat, confined spaces, respiratory protection, bloodborne pathogens, hazard communication, etc. is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of funerals, hospital stays, medical retirement benefits, litigation, federal LODD benefits, and ruining the financial future of the dead workers' families.

A couple of things you migh tnot know...

1) If your state isn't an OSHA state, that doesn't mean that your state is immune from OSHA standards, it just means that you don't have a state agency to administrate enforcement for OSHA so the fed OSHA folks regulate you directly.

2) Some of OSHA's funding comes from fines and settlements. OSHA isn't 100% taxpayer funded.
Some mileage may vary, depending upon where you live and how stringent the regulators are there.
I wasn't aware of that Ben, I was somewhat curious where those fees went. I know OSHA isn't a for-profit organization, however any government entity seems to make a profit for someone somewhere, either off the books or under the table.
Government is not a "for profit" industry. If it was, we would not be running at a deficit. If someone is taking bribes, that is clearly against the rules and is not the intent of the law.

You would be well served to give the paranoia and fear of "big government" a bit of a re-think. You should always be sceptical (of course), but the current level of anti-government paranoia in America is counter productive, and plays right into the hands of the very wealthy and very powerful. these rules are in place to protect you and force your employer to accept the risks he is exposing his employees to.
$513M / number of employed fokes = $3-4 per worker. Thanks OSHA!
The more fines OSHA collects, the more inspectors they can hire, the more violations they can find and cite, the more fines they collect, the more inspectors they can hire...
Collecting fines is law enforcement, not accepting a bribe.

It has nothing to do with being anti-government or pro-government, because it's the government collecting the fines.
i have a job where osha, the epa and the dot regulate. and if it wasn't for them making sure that those rules are followed, i would've been in the hospital 5 or 6 times in a 5 year period
true, but in theory compliance will improve and they will collect less in fines as employers realise it is cheaper to run a safe shop. That's the theory, anyways. If you are in a corrupt system, good luck.

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