Thursday, May 18, 2017

Black Lung Disease: Back, and Deadlier than Ever

So here's a damned frustrating and horrifying story, from National Geographic, concerning how Black Lung Disease has had a resurgence among miners. Reading some of the details in this story, about how non-unionized mines pressure miners into playing fast and loose with safety regulations, just gets me pissed off as hell.

And of course, there are larger lessons to be gleaned from this, for those willing to listen and think, about how economic incentive and self-interest, left unchecked, can lead to disease, agony, and death for the people who do the actual hard work in this world.

I tend to be deeply suspicious of those who advocate for reduced regulation and oversight in regards occupational safety, as I've been around long enough to know that those who typically advocate for such looser standards are not those who are actually at risk from said occupational dangers. The guys who denigrate workplace safety and independent oversight are typically at risk only from paper cuts and obesity. But human nature being what it is, those same guys will sometimes happily persuade themselves that it's okay to find short cuts around safety rules and regulations. Who needs all that damn red tape when there's money to be made.

Look, I love business. I love our free market, free wheeling version of capitalism--it's enabled me to create my own little consulting business from scratch and make my living successfully taking on huge insurance companies for fun and profit. But I also have worked with industrial concerns long enough (most of my adult life) to know that some business owners need a little independent oversight to keep from mangling and maiming workers as part of doing business.

Most business people, in my experience, want to do things the right way, they want to keep their people safe and productive. But in a competitive world, pressure from those who cut corners and operate in a less than safe manner can exert harmful influence over even those with good intentions.

In the long run, I think it's in everyone's interest to maintain effective and independent workplace safety regulations and incentives. And when you don't, you get this kind of horror.

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