Response to Questions in "Rural Health Communications"
Q. What is your philosophy, including outlook and plans, regarding safety for all Americans, both on and off the job?
Governor Carter. We must do more to guarantee each and every American the right to a safe and healthy community, home, and place of work. Twenty percent of deaths and injuries related to household consumer products involve unsafe products. Over 600 toxic chemicals are introduced into our workplaces annually. There are currently over 13,000 already listed. It has been estimated that 100,000 working people die each year due to occupational disease.
The control of occupational hazards can save many workers each year who die prematurely because they are exposed to toxic chemicals, dust, pesticides, unsafe machinery, and other dangerous conditions. Nationwide efforts in this area should continue until our working citizens are safe in their jobs.
And, as consumers, we are all concerned about safety. Reforms are necessary to protect the safety of the consumers of this country.
We must institutionalize the consumer's role through the creation of a Consumer Protection Agency. This agency would serve as a strong, voice in government hearings and legislation, would insure that the consumer's interest in safety is considered, and would help assure that government speaks for the consumers rather than for the vested interest.
We should establish a strong nationwide program of consumer safety education to give the consumer the knowledge to protect himself. In Georgia, we set up a program in which state fieldworkers traveled across the state training social workers and teachers in the basics of consumer law and protection. We established a toll-free WATS line to help the citizens of our state who had complaints and who needed information.
If our government is truly to be a government of the people, it must also be a government which protects the rights of the consumer to a safe and healthy life.
Q. What is your position on the overall effectiveness of each of the following regulatory agencies involved with safety? How well have they worked? Can they be improved? And how? a. OSHA? b. CPSC? c. MESA? d. NHTSA?
Governor Carter. The reform of our regulatory agencies—those involved with safety as well as many others—would be one of the highest priorities of a Carter Administration. First, I feel it is important to examine the manner in which the regulatory agencies exercise their authority.
Throughout this campaign, I have emphasized the need for a code of ethics for federal regulators. Such a code includes:
• government in the sunshine which is open and accessible to all members of the public, not just special interests;
• strong implementation and enforcement of our freedom-of-information laws;
• disclosure and control of the activities of lobbyists through enactment and enforcement of a strong lobbying disclosure law;
• breaking up the sweetheart arrangements between regulatory agencies and the regulated industries and closing the revolving door of employment which exists between them;
• annual disclosure of all financial involvements of major federal officials should be required by law; no gifts of any value should be permitted to a public official.
I will not permit our regulatory agencies to become dumping grounds for unsuccessful candidates, faithful political partisans, out of favor White House aides, and representatives of narrow special interests. Insistence on high qualifications of regulatory officials, coupled with openness in government can go a long way toward making our regulatory agencies truly responsive and responsible to the public interest they are designed to serve.
Second, I believe it is important to undertake a drastic and thorough revision of the procedures for analyzing the effectiveness of regulatory agencies. We need increased program evaluation. Many programs fail to define with any specificity what they intend to accomplish. Without that specification, evaluation by objective is impossible. My evaluation of the overall effectiveness of agencies and programs in the occupational, consumer, mining, and transportation safety areas will be guided by the following general objectives.
With respect to OSHA, I believe the basic concept is excellent. We should continue to clarify and expand the state role in the implementation of health and safety. OSHA must be strengthened to insure that those who earn their living by personal labor can work in safe and healthy environments.
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 should cover all employees and be enforced as intended when the law was enacted. However, early and periodic review of the Act's provisions should be made to insure that they are reasonable and workable. I would look favorably on developing means to provide technical assistance and information to employers to encourage compliance with the Act
In the area of consumer product safety, consumers must achieve greater protection against dangerous products. The 1970 National Commission on Product Safety stated that accidents in American homes associated with consumer products accounted for 30,000 deaths a year. In order to reduce these horrifying statistics, I recommend:
• strong enforcement of existing laws;
• enforcement of stringent flammability standards for clothing;
• adequate research programs to anticipate potential hazards;
• expanded premarket testing for all new chemicals to elicit their general characteristics and environmental and health effects;
• quality and safety standards, where feasible, for food and manufactured items;
• full product labeling of relevant information affecting safety as well as price and quality;
• strict truth-in-advertising measures to require that manufacturers are able to substantiate product performance and safety claims.
With regard to mine safety, we must vigorously enforce existing legislation. We should also seek strong and effective legislation where necessary to promote mine safety and to protect mine workers against black-lung disease and other hazards associated with mining. Such legislation should incorporate both effective enforcement of mine safety by the federal government and adequate compensation to coal miners and their dependents who have already suffered disablement or death as a result of black-lung disease and other injuries. Over 19,000 disabling injuries occurred in 1975 in our nation's mines. This terrible toll cannot be tolerated.
Finally, in the area of highway transportation, I believe that highway and automobile safety should be given higher priority in our national transportation policy. I support additional automobile safety research and stronger protections against both the on-the-road and in-the-car hazards of driving.
Q. What are your feelings concerning improvement or revitalization of worker's compensation laws in the United States? Should there be federal legislation, or should programs be kept at the state level? What are the problems? Is administration fair or unfair? Administered properly?
Governor Carter. Adequate worker's compensation—assistance to workers who are victims of work-related injury and disease—is important to the economic well-being of the nation as well as individual employers.
Much research has been done on methods to improve the worker's compensation program. I support efforts to make the program as equitable and efficient as possible. And we must insure that diseases and injuries not currently covered are adequately and effectively provided for.
As governor, I worked to upgrade the State of Georgia's workmen's compensation program—including improved compensation benefits. As President, I would aggressively support the Democratic Party platform which calls for the enactment of minimum federal standards for workers compensation laws.
NOTE: The APP used October 1 as the date for this document. The original source stated that this appeared in the "October 1976" issue.
Jimmy Carter, Response to Questions in "Rural Health Communications" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347672