ASSE Letter to Wall Street Journal on Fall Protection/China Recovery
Des Plaines, IL (November 2, 2009) —
The Wall Street Journal
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, New York 10036
Sadly, the feature photo that ran with your October 22 front page story titled “In China, Momentum Builds for a Strong Economic Recovery” appears to show a worker gambling with his own life, teetering on the edge of a building with no safety protection. Workers at such heights should be utilizing fall arrest systems that include full body harnesses, lanyards, energy absorbers, anchorage connectors, fall arresters, vertical lifelines, self-retracting lanyards and more.
We hope these photos are not indicative of the overall protection of workers on the job in China because as China’s economy continues to recover they need to invest in effective occupational safety and health programs or their costs to do business will escalate. In the U.S., falls from ladders and roofs still account for the majority of falls.
Fall protection is required by law in the U.S. and most employers here are diligent in requiring their workers to protect themselves from falls. That comes at a cost to those employers, though one that pays off in a robust system of safety and health regulation, reduced workers compensation and insurance costs and programs that protect workers and employers from loss. We hope China’s strong economic recovery does not come at the cost of worker safety and health protections.
As noted in your October 21 story titled “State Worker-Safety Efforts Scrutinized” the U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis notes, “The safety of workers must be priority one.” We agree. But the commitment to worker safety and health in our nation cannot be allowed to be undermined by our government’s trade agreements that turn a blind eye to the lack of the same safety and health commitments by our trading partners. If worker safety is priority one, it must also be priority one in our trade agreements. If we are serious about helping build jobs here in a global economy, our trade agreements need to hold our partners to the same standards employers successfully meet here. Our own strong economic recovery depends on it.
C. Christopher Patton, CSP