This post originally appeared on Harvard Law School’s Bill of Health and on RegBlog and is cross-posted with permisison.
For many of the federal agencies that promulgate and enforce regulations to protect public health, safety, and the environment, the era of “big government” never even began. The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a prime example: the agency employs about 2,000 inspectors, who are collectively able to visit roughly 100,000 establishments each year to look for unsafe and unhealthy conditions in the workplace. This may sound like an ample effort, until one considers the scope of the problem: OSHA’s rules apply to more than 8 million establishments, and every year more than 4,500 workers die in traumatic occupational accidents, while epidemiologists estimate that about 40,000 additional workers die prematurely from chronic over-exposures to toxic substances.
According to data from the Labor Department, analyzed by the AFL-CIO (read the report here – page 91), the ratio of OSHA inspectors to number of covered establishments is such that it would take OSHA between 26 and 243 years to inspect all of the jobsites in each state once only.
So OSHA—and the nation’s …