Does safety harm the US chemical industry?
Apr21

Does safety harm the US chemical industry?

C&EN has a meeting with its advisory board this week. One of our advisers is In the Pipeline blogger and Vertex Pharmaceuticals chemist Derek Lowe, and he blogged on Monday looking for feedback on C&EN that he could bring to us. I was going through the comments this morning--yes, we are always open to constructive criticism--and at the very end, a few safety-related responses emerged: Anonymous But I regret the lack of proper investigation into the reasons why costs are so much lower in other countries. When my enviromental health and safety officer insists that I perform calorimetry on every step of a route which uses a material containing an aromatic nitro group, tells me to reduce my usage of chlorinated solvents and asks me to separate and bag/bottle all my waste into five different streams and fill in forms in triplicate to get rid of each one, is it any surprise that I choose to send that work to India where they'll do it cheaper and quicker than I can. No questions asked about environmental standards. No questions asked about accidents in those labs. Should I feel guilty that I know some were hospitalised last year as the result of lab fires and an uncontrolled exothermic reaction or should I just enjoy the cost savings? AlchemX Our foreign competitors are brutally efficient. They barely waste any time during school or on the job that does not increase their productivity. If that means discarding safety, I think they will do it. ... The outsourcing is unstoppable as far as I can tell. They are faster, cheaper and even know more a lot of the time. Because they spent a lot less time becoming politically correct citizens and much more time becoming economically competitive. A probably different Anonymous But I actually don't think they have to discard safety although I'm sure some do. They just have to get rid of the mindless junk of red tape that most big companies impose on their research staff, none of which makes us safer, just less competitive. What do you think, readers? Do U.S.--and, I would think, Canadian and European--environmental health & safety requirements hinder competitiveness? If so, is that an appropriate price to pay to ensure worker and environmental well-being? Is there a better way to do it that would maintain safety but not be a drain on...

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