Safe Enough?: Managing Risk and Regulation


269 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-88975-208-7
DDC 363.1





Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


Safe Enough? is really two collections of articles in one. Some of the
articles are merely an apologia for corporate power, a barrage of
one-sided business propaganda piously dressed up as “sound science.”
Other articles, such as the one by Peter J. Neumann on the
cost-effectiveness of pharmaceuticals, argue for regulations based on
science, economics, and the rational deployment of resources.

This assembly of propaganda with good critical reasoning is done in two
main ways. The first is to choose legitimate but controversial examples
such as second-hand tobacco smoke, genetically engineered foods, and
toxic toys. These examples serve to discredit the whole project of
social and environmental regulation. There is no discussion of the major
environmental hazards that Canadians have faced over the last
generation, such as acid rain, urban smog, the Sydney Tar Ponds,
asbestos, benzene, dioxins, PCBs, polluted drinking water, and the
effects of chemical pesticides on workers and communities.

The tactic in the extensive discussions of theory is rather different.
There is one inconsequential attempt to smear regulation by a caricature
of the Precautionary Principle (by H. Sterling Burnett). But the usual
technique is to fire the guns exclusively at government regulations, the
media, and public advocacy groups. Corporate junk science, secrecy, and
infiltration of the regulatory authorities are nowhere discussed. Nor is
there any treatment of the new round of “sustainability regulations”
(such as those governing pollution prevention and eco-efficiency), which
do not rely on the risk-assessment techniques discussed in the
collection. Safe Enough? depends for its persuasiveness on a selective
and one-sided treatment of regulatory activity.


Jones, Laura., “Safe Enough?: Managing Risk and Regulation,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 22, 2024,