OSHA’s Justification

Dave Hardy has this to say about OSHA’s reasoning for regulating the ammunition industry out of business:

One commenter points out that OSHA cites, as a reason for the rule, a 1947 explosion. As OSHA admits, that was a huge detonation of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. I know a bit about it because it gave rise to a Supreme Court case construing the Federal Tort Claims Act.

Basically, in order to get fertilizer to Europe after WWII, the federal government cut a lot of corners. It allowed the stuff to be bagged when it was too hot for safety, allowed it to be put in waxed sacks (more waterproof, but if the wax melts it becomes the equivalent of fuel oil in a ANFO bomb), etc., etc.. The port of Texas City was full of boxcars of the stuff when some of it spontaneously ignited, then detonated — the resulting explosions essentially levelled the town.

Some people sued the government — it had, after all, ignored all the standard industry safety standards. They lost because the Supreme Court ruled that the situation fell under the “discretionary function exception” to the FTCA. The agencies that ignored the safety standards had discretion to do so, and had essentially made judgments that speed of production was worth the risk to life, and that was that.

A rather strange case to invoke for an argument that government regulation is necessary in order to make us safer.

One Response to “OSHA’s Justification”

  1. Alcibiades says:

    I remember seeing a documentary about the Texas City Disaster on the History Channel once. The damn thing went off with the force of about 4 kilotons as I remember.

    I heard there was a similar explosion in Canada during World War I. A freighter carrying munitions blew up off the coast of a town and devastated it.