Thursday, May 16, 2013

Losing sight of oversight

A man invents an awesome safety apparatus for table saws. Not only does it shut down the saw blade immediately upon contact with anything soft, it does so without damaging the blade or interfering with lines of sight. More than a decade later, manufacturers still refuse to incorporate it in their power tools. Instead, they make minimal efforts at safety measures, including guards that obscure vision and stoppers that ruin the blade.

Why has the superior technology not caught on? Because the companies are afraid that by adopting it, lawsuits will soar. They say it'll make their existing products magnets for liability claims.

This Mother Jones article reminded me of a conflict I followed when I lived in Missouri. A local dairy declared on its bottles that its milk was "100% hormone free." Competitors complained, saying that such labeling implied that hormone-added milk had something wrong with it. The state agreed, and banned dairies from making the designation. I was appalled by that ruling, just as I'm appalled by the table-saw saga.

The ongoing IRS scandal has at least partial relevance to this. Critics are crying partisan persecution over what seems to me to be legit scrutiny. And, as sadly expected, our leaders are playing right along. 

It seems to me that any reasonable advancement in safety should become official standard. Public safety is one of the reasons government exists. Enforcement should be strong and not subject to the profit-protecting agenda of big business. The same rings true with product labeling and with financial scrutiny. The public's interest should always come first.

The opposition says we don't need such oversight. Their actions prove that we do.

No comments: