The Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT) tries to ensure that regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles.However, the agreement also recognizes countries’ rights to adopt the standards they consider appropriate — for example, for human, animal or plant life or health, for the protection of the environment or to meet other consumer interests. Moreover, members are not prevented from taking measures necessary to ensure their standards are met. But that is counterbalanced with disciplines. A myriad of regulations can be a nightmare for manufacturers and exporters. Life can be simpler if governments apply international standards, and the agreement encourages them to do so In any case, whatever regulations they use should not discriminate.The agreement also sets out a code of good practice for both governments and non-governmental or industry bodies to prepare, adopt and apply voluntary standards. Over 200 standards-setting bodies apply the code.
But those in the developed world should take heed too. Over a century of struggle has pushed us away from the horrendous conditions of the industrial revolution, the same child labour, fire-trap workplaces, and non-existent health and safety measures that people elsewhere suffer today. In the fight by the business classes and their allies to roll back this progress, health and safety is on the front line.
The media propaganda campaign against “health and safety gone mad” and/or “health and safety killjoys” is built upon myths and half-truths. (As is the campaign against “political correctness.”) The point is to turn ordinary people against the very concept that keeps them from dying or suffering serious injuries in the workplace so that it can be rolled back. Hence the media silence when workers are killed because of lapses in health and safety, or over the still unconscionably high industrial death toll in countries like Britain.
Where this is going should be obvious, given existing Tory plans to curb the power of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and “change whatever we need to change.”
They have made no secret that they want to abolish law relating to the social chapter which gives rights to employees such as working hours. Industries like nursing and bakery workers all have access to sensible and less-stressful shift patterns. The Tories objected to this. Let’s not forget they still do.
They plan to amend the law where the Health and Safety Executive can carry out inspections in industries where an investigation is already under way.
The HSE would not be allowed to carry out its independent audit.
I am sure that a lot of cases for injury compensation have been won due to the involvement of the HSE and let’s not forget their legal powers have made the workplace a safer place to be. Departments like these will be targets for the Tories.
Health and safety is one the most importing areas of (still ongoing) progress, and Bhopal should serve as a timeless reminder of why we should ignore the deregulatory message of the “free” market propagandists.