Regulations and Bad Behavior #2

Every time the business fawning politicians yawp about over regulation a story like this should be postered to their rose-colored windows.

 Even as the rate of serious injury and fatalities on American farms has fallen, the number of workers dying by entrapment in grain bins and silos has remained stubbornly steady. The annual number of such accidents rose throughout the past decade, reaching a peak of at least 26 deaths in 2010, before dropping somewhat since.

Silos teeming with corn, wheat or soybeans become death traps when grain cascades out of control, asphyxiating or crushing their victims. Since 2007, 80 farmworkers have died in silo accidents; 14 of them were teenage boys.

… Last year, the Labor Department proposed new regulations aimed at tightening protections for children doing farm work.

The proposed federal regulations would have prohibited children under 18 from working in large commercial grain bins, silos or other enclosed spaces. But the Obama administration, sensitive to Republican charges that it was choking the economy with expensive regulations, pulled back the proposed rules this year in the face of furious farm-state objections.

Even those rules would not have covered working conditions on family farms and small operations like the one where Tommy Osier died and which account for 70 percent of grain entrapment accidents.

NY Times

This is why regulations are necessary: people make them so.  Not the boys who get sucked into the avalanches of corn; the men and women and corporations who build, own and manage these colossi — in order to make more profit than that to be made with smaller units or proper safety equipment, regulations and training.

At least the anti-regulators should come out and say it –“14 boys in 5 years?  That’s not so bad!  Heck, more are killed motor-cycle accidents.”

Or, perhaps they might gleefully add, We send 18 year old boys to war, with a good chance they will be maimed or killed, why discriminate against doing the same in grain silos?” [In fact 2007-2012 saw 21 18 year old “boys” die in American initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.]

The farm interests killed proposed regulations that might have helped deal with this problem, and the Obama Administration completely caved.  Instead of insisting there was a life and death problem and ‘if you don’t like this, what is your solution?’ it caved

 Members of Congress from both parties demanded that the rules be killed in their entirety — largely based on the distorted reading by opponents that they would have forbidden children from performing chores on their own families’ farms.

Democratic senators facing tight races in farm states — including Jon Testerof Montana, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — complained directly to the White House. Bipartisan groups in both chambers of Congress introduced legislation that would overturn the regulations if they were finalized.

The White House made no effort to defend its own Labor Department’s rules, directing Secretary Solis to kill them, Obama administration and Labor Department officials said.

… In April, the Labor Department abruptly withdrew the rules with a brief written statement expressing its commitment to respecting the role of parents and family members in passing down rural traditions.

“To be clear,” it continued in a highly unusual comment, “this regulation will not be pursued for the duration of the Obama administration.”

Public health and farmworker advocates were shocked. One called it a sucker punch to the Labor Department and to groups that had spent more than a decade trying to modernize farm safety rules for working children.

“I’m very frustrated and disgusted with the White House,” said Rena Steinzor, a professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and an expert on federal health and safety regulation.

“Normally an agency proposes a regulation and, if there are problems, the agency revises it,” Ms. Steinzor continued. “But we live in an age of greed and insanity, and people on the Hill went crazy. Rather than defend it, the Obama administration just caved.”

See Regulations and Bad Behavior #1, here.

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