Cooperation and Conflict in Occupational Safety and Health: A Multination Study of the Automotive Industry

Cooperation and Conflict in Occupational Safety and Health: A Multination Study of the Automotive Industry

Cooperation and Conflict in Occupational Safety and Health: A Multination Study of the Automotive Industry

Cooperation and Conflict in Occupational Safety and Health: A Multination Study of the Automotive Industry

Synopsis

This volume examines the methods used to promote occupational safety and health in the automotive industries of the United States, West Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Kenya. The author pays particular attention to the ways in which the broad national social, economic, political, and legal environments influence occupational safety and health activities and outcomes. The study also focuses on the differing degrees of cooperation and conflict exhibited among involved parties in the handling of occupational safety in different countries and companies.

Excerpt

This chapter provides a broad overview of occupational safety and health in the United States, focusing primarily on regulatory aspects. It will come as no surprise to the reader that occupational safety and health is a contentious issue here. This chapter offers a historical context in which to understand how and why this contentiousness arose. It also provides relatively straightforward examples of the effects of assorted social, legal, political, and economic factors on the development of occupational safety and health policies and the disputes that surround them. This background should prove useful for understanding developments within the U.S. auto industry and the operation of occupational safety and health systems in other countries in both their regulatory and managerial aspects. Nevertheless, the reader who is familiar with occupational safety and health regulation and the related controversies may choose to proceed directly to the next chapter.

Controversy surrounding occupational safety and health in the United States is nothing new; it dates back to the earliest days of their regulation. In many ways, disputes were even more intense at these earlier stages of regulation. One reason for this is the nature of working conditions back then.

Despite the questionable accuracy of injury statistics from early in this century, it is obvious that working conditions in the United States in the early 1900s were extremely hazardous compared with conditions today. There is a wide range of estimates of worker fatality rates cited in the literature for this time period due to the relatively primitive data collection techniques at that time. Still, even the lowest of these estimates far exceeds the fatality rates of today. The National Safety Council (1982) estimates that there were between 18,000 and 21,000 workplace fatalities in 1912. In comparison, the National Safety Council estimates that there were 12,300 worker fatalities in 1981 in a work force between two and three times the size of the 1912 work force. This suggests that the 1912 worker fatality rate was at least four times as great as the 1981 rate.

Berman (1978) cites estimates developed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 1907 and by organized labor in 1904 that placed the annual number of workplace deaths at between 15,000 to 17,500, and 27,000, respectively, from a work force of 26 million persons. In contrast, the Office of Technology Assessment (1985), using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, estimates that there were an average of 6,000 . . .

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