UNITED STATES—Federal and state guidelines in the field of consumer health and safety have been around for almost a century, but are they effective? The media gravitates toward headline grabbing cases in which innocent people suffer injuries and even death as a result of unsafe products and devices. What usually goes unreported, however, is that consumer-oriented laws and regulations prevent millions of accidents every day.

Unfortunately, safe workplaces and effective practices, as a direct result of laws on the books, do not make for exciting news stories or flashy headlines. In fact, the good news is that in the transport industry, the construction trade, the automotive industry, and dozens of other commercial sectors, consumer product and emissions regulations go a long way toward making life less dangerous for working people and everyone else. The following examples highlight the positive side of the health and safety situation.

Fleet Management Guidelines

Besides all the vehicle components, like special braking systems, airbags, and anti-skid tires, vehicle fleets, particularly in California, use telematics to minimize downtime during air-pollution checks while vehicles are in transit. Government fleets that operate under California law face strict smog check compliance guidelines. For larger fleets, even short periods of downtime during the checking process can mean a significant amount of lost revenue. But telematics technology allows supervisors to greatly reduce the amount of operational time it takes to do the necessary air pollution testing.

Consumer Product Safety Requirements

The federal list of CPS (consumer product safety) guidelines includes millions of specific standards and rules pertaining to innumerable for-sale items like appliances, toys, furniture, and thousands of other retail and wholesale products. The rules are so comprehensive and complex that there’s even a stand-alone federal agency, the CPS commission, that handles consumer complaints, enforces regulations, and deals directly with industry in setting new and all-encompassing standards.

Building Codes

Building and construction codes for architects and engineers have been in widespread use for more than a century. Governments and municipalities create and enforce the codes so that all properties in which people will live or work are safe and not in danger of collapsing. Modern versions of these precise regulations are so detailed that it takes trained engineers to interpret the various line items before construction crews can go about putting up a building, bridge, private residence, or another type of structure. Before the universal application of this system, many people lost their lives and suffered severe injuries as a result of homes, offices, and municipal structures that collapsed or simply fell apart without notice. Believe it or not, this type of structure can also help people find motivation at work because there are no grey areas.

Vehicle Standards

Automakers are subject to hundreds of legally mandated safety rules that cover virtually every component of a new car or truck. Beginning in the 1960s, manufacturers had to retool assembly lines to meet new sets of government rules after a major publication revealed widespread unsafe practices in the planning and assembly of new automobiles. Since then, and especially in the 1970s, the US Congress has promulgated multiple new laws that make driving a much safer activity for both professional and casual operators of cars, trucks, vans, and anything with an engine that uses the roadways.