Blog god Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, in his excellent book “An Army of Davids” (review forthcoming, we promise….) dedicates an entire chapter to “Empowering the Really Little Guys”, i.e., nanotechnology. In it, this visionary cautions against letting the Luddites and their fears impede the advance of nanotechnology. To be sure, he doesn’t turn a blind eye to exploring — and addressing — potential pitfalls, but he certainly makes the case for letting the technology advance and not allowing the Luddites to impede important medical and scientific advancements.
We thought of Glenn today when we read the Washington Post front page article by Rick Weiss entitled, “Nano Raises Worker Safety Questions“. Our first question was, “With whom does nano raise questions?” Certainly not with anyone we’ve spoken to. The story goes on to profile a nanotech company that’s working with NIOSH to explore any special needs of nanotech. He vaguely alludes to OHSA’s “General Duty clause”, but mostly glosses over it.
The truth (here we go again) is that section 5 (a) (1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act is called the “general duty clause”, and deserves more than just a passing mention. it provides:
“(a) Each employer —
(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
Pretty straightforward, no? The truth is that it doesn’t matter whether a workplace is nanotech, microtech, macrotech or no tech at all. It’s all covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. (With the obvious exceptions for places like mining, that have their own separate regulatory regime.) We are regulated enough, thank you. For those who would scramble to add more regulation of a sector that is in its nascent stage we would throw in with Glenn Reynolds and advise them to count ten — or maybe a hundred — and not choke this technology in its crib. Innovation is at the root of manufacturing. Over-regulation is its enemy.
To the Luddites we say, “Let a million nano-flowers bloom.”
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