Reforming the Workplace: A Study of Self-Regulation in Occupational Safety

By Joseph V. Rees | Go to book overview

Let me suggest two possibilities. One is that the emerging pro- regulation ethos will be translated into more centralized regulation by the federal government (including more detailed regulatory requirements, stricter rule enforcement, and stronger legal sanctions), thus echoing the adversarial, legalistic style of regulation characteristic of the preceding pro-regulation era. That is one possible future. On the other hand, one might also predict that the changing national mood will influence the role of positive government very differently in the coming decade. Like the preceding pro-regulation era, we will see a new cycle of affirmative government regulation for dealing earnestly with the nation's environmental, health, and safety problems. According to this version of events, however, we will also see a less legalistic and more flexible regulatory climate, in which regulatory policy makers devote less energy to crafting legalistic and deterrence-minded regulatory strategies, and more to devising an array of innovative regulatory alternatives designed to match regulatory tools to regulatory problems in a more discriminating and responsive way.

Which vision of regulation will dominate? Although the outcome is far from clear, judging from past experience there can be little doubt that these are politically charged policy choices that will stir considerable public debate. Some of the critical questions then: Is the flexible vision of regulation a promising alternative to the legalistic one? If regulatory enforcement is relaxed will business firms behave responsibly? Must government regulation be stringently enforced to ensure responsible corporate conduct, or can more flexible regulatory strategies be just as effective?

This book explores these fundamental issues by focusing on a paradigmatic example of flexible regulation, a landmark regulatory experiment carried out between 1979 and 1984 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in California. The Cooperative Compliance Program established a unique three- way arrangement involving unions, management, and OSHA by authorizing labor-management safety committees on seven large construction sites to assume many of OSHA's regulatory responsibilities (such as conducting inspections and investigating complaints), while OSHA ceased routine compliance inspections and pursued a more cooperative relationship with these companies. The keynote was self-regulation.

-viii-

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Reforming the Workplace: A Study of Self-Regulation in Occupational Safety
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Politics of Regulatory Reform 22
  • 3 - The Law and Enterprise Responsibility 55
  • 4 - Professionalism and Accountability 85
  • 5 - The Labor-Management Safety Committee 134
  • 6 - Flexible Regulatory Enforcement 175
  • 7 - Conclusion 224
  • Appendix: Research Methods 241
  • Index 249
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