Sunday, January 16, 2011

The City of Houston Puts a Stop to Private Charity: It's Illegal to Feed the Homeless Without a Permit

HOUSTON CHRONICLE --Bobby and Amanda Herring spent more than a year providing food to homeless people in downtown Houston every day. They fed them, left behind no trash and doled out warm meals peacefully without a single crime being committed. That ended two weeks ago when the city of Houston shut down their "Feed a Friend" effort for lack of a permit. And city officials say the couple most likely will not be able to obtain one.

Anyone serving food for public consumption, whether for the homeless or for sale, must have a permit, said Kathy Barton, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Department. To get that permit, the food must be prepared in a certified kitchen with a certified food manager.  The regulations are all the more essential in the case of the homeless, Barton said, because "poor people are the most vulnerable to foodborne illness and also are the least likely to have access to health care."

HT: Pete Friedlander

Update: As West points out so perfectly in the comments, the homeless and poor people of Houston are also the least likely to have "access to, ya know, FOOD."

72 Comments:

At 1/16/2011 11:38 AM, Blogger West said...

They also are the most likely to have limited access to, ya know, FOOD.

Idiots.

 
At 1/16/2011 11:42 AM, Blogger Colin said...

If you want to have some fun, head over to the Houston city government's website and check out the requirements for becoming a certified food manager. You have to take a two day class, pass a test and pay a $70 fee. The study manual includes stuff like this:

LIGHTING
At least 50 foot-candles of light (540 lux): at a surface where a food employee may be working
with food or with utensils or equipment such as knives, slicers, grinders, or saws where employee
safety is a factor.

At least 20 foot-candles (220 lux) of light shall be provided at a surface where food is provided for
consumer self-service, such as buffets and salad bars, or where fresh produce or packaged foods
are sold or offered for consumption and inside equipment such as reach-in and under-counter
refrigerators and at a distance of 30 inches (75 mm) above the floor in areas used for handwashing,
utensil-washing, and equipment and utensil storage and in toilet rooms. At least 10 foot
candles (110 lux) of light shall be provided at a distance of 30 inches (75 cm) above the floor in
walk-in refrigeration units and dry food storage areas and in other areas and rooms during periods
of cleaning.


Becoming a certified kitchen, meanwhile, appears sufficiently burdensome that has prompted a business model aimed at helping people avoid the regulatory hassle.

 
At 1/16/2011 11:44 AM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

The only time I recall getting food poisoning was at a restaurant in San Francisco. So, what good is a food permit?

Also, my girlfriend hired a homeless person to do some work around the house one time (since I was working a lot). I learned he received over $1,000 a month for being disabled and he spent it all within a week (basically, on "sex, drugs, and rock and roll"). He then panhandled the rest of the month.

The last time I saw him, he was in a wheelchair in front of a supermarket, after getting run over (he was expecting tens of thousands of dollars from a lawsuit). He had a glass jar, and while I talked to him for about five minutes, two women and a guy put a dollar each in his jar and two or three other people gave him change.

 
At 1/16/2011 11:50 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

It's illegal most places to serve food (even give it away) without a permit. I think it is probably incorrect that the Herrings were not committing a "single crime" as they state. Most likely they had not been caught committing the crime either because no one knew they were serving the food without a permit or no one was enforcing the permit requirement.

One of my jobs is to see that all government compliance requirements are met for a 60-year-old, 2 million square foot building that employs 1400 people. We are in the process of getting back cafeteria services after losing them three years ago. None of the bidders could afford to upgrade to the current code and still make a profit, so our company is having to pay for the upgrades (the old equipment was grandfathered but lost that status because of the shutdown).

The price of the food will ultimately reflect the price of the upgrades (or be subsidized). How close do you think the inspectors should look to make sure all the requirements are met? If they overlook requirements and a lot of people get sick, who should pay for that?

Would the Herrings pay the hospital bills if they accidentally caused food poisoning for operating an unlicensed establishment? How about this headline: "Fifty people die from tainted donated food on Thanksgiving."

PeakTrader, all safety requirements are designed to lower the incidence rate. None eliminate the risk.

 
At 1/16/2011 11:52 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Correction: That's none eliminate the risk to zero.

 
At 1/16/2011 12:07 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

We used to have a guy who would steal food from the other people at work, so he was set up. Food was taken from trash cans and put where he would find and eat it. Do you suppose the joke was on him or the people who "served" his food?

 
At 1/16/2011 12:12 PM, Blogger Colin said...

If you've got a few minutes, head over to the city of Houston's website and check out the requirements for becoming a certified food manager. Here is an excerpt from the study manual:

LIGHTING
At least 50 foot-candles of light (540 lux): at a surface where a food employee may be working
with food or with utensils or equipment such as knives, slicers, grinders, or saws where employee
safety is a factor.

At least 20 foot-candles (220 lux) of light shall be provided at a surface where food is provided for
consumer self-service, such as buffets and salad bars, or where fresh produce or packaged foods
are sold or offered for consumption and inside equipment such as reach-in and under-counter
refrigerators and at a distance of 30 inches (75 mm) above the floor in areas used for handwashing,
utensil-washing, and equipment and utensil storage and in toilet rooms. At least 10 foot candles (110 lux) of light shall be provided at a distance of 30 inches (75 cm) above the floor in
walk-in refrigeration units and dry food storage areas and in other areas and rooms during periods
of cleaning.


Obtaining kitchen certification, meanwhile, appears sufficiently burdensome that at least one business has sprung up to help people avoid the regulatory hassle.

 
At 1/16/2011 12:14 PM, Blogger Colin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/16/2011 12:14 PM, Blogger Colin said...

If you've got a few minutes, head over to the city of Houston's website and check out the requirements for becoming a certified food manager. Here is an excerpt from the study manual:

LIGHTING
At least 50 foot-candles of light (540 lux): at a surface where a food employee may be working
with food or with utensils or equipment such as knives, slicers, grinders, or saws where employee
safety is a factor.

At least 20 foot-candles (220 lux) of light shall be provided at a surface where food is provided for
consumer self-service, such as buffets and salad bars, or where fresh produce or packaged foods
are sold or offered for consumption and inside equipment such as reach-in and under-counter
refrigerators and at a distance of 30 inches (75 mm) above the floor in areas used for handwashing,
utensil-washing, and equipment and utensil storage and in toilet rooms. At least 10 foot candles (110 lux) of light shall be provided at a distance of 30 inches (75 cm) above the floor in
walk-in refrigeration units and dry food storage areas and in other areas and rooms during periods
of cleaning.


Obtaining kitchen certification, meanwhile, appears sufficiently burdensome that at least one business has sprung up to help people avoid the regulatory hassle.

 
At 1/16/2011 12:18 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Walt, yes, the chance of food poisoning is reduced when it becomes illegal to provide food.

 
At 1/16/2011 12:26 PM, Blogger Colin said...

Walt, yes, the chance of food poisoning is reduced when it becomes illegal to provide food.

The sad part is that it actually goes up, as the alternative for many of these people is likely dumpster dining.

 
At 1/16/2011 12:29 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

I wonder how many incidences of food poisoning Bobby and Amanda Herring had feeding the homeless every day for over a year?

 
At 1/16/2011 12:37 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Colin, here,s another perspective of your viewpoint:

Obtaining kitchen certification, meanwhile, appears sufficiently important that at least one business has sprung up to help people through the regulatory process.

You know, someone got sick at some point and said "there should be a law," and now there is. And chances are that person who made the law got re-elected over and over again. Be careful what you wish and ask for.

PeakTrader, I have some hamburger meat that is three days old I could not give or sell to a licensed restaurant that wished to stay in business, yet I might find an unlicensed place to take it and give it away or even perhaps sell it. Should poor people be exposed to more dangers those with money have?

We had a guy that used to sell tacos at work for his church (a great cause, right?). Everybody loved them until a plumber went over to fix his sink and saw the dogs, cats, and chickens in the kitchen along with their shit everywhere. The animals were walking in the shit and then on the counter where the tacos were prepared. Needless to say he wasn't licensed, and no one wanted to eat his tacos after they heard the horror story. Of course, this might happen in a licensed establishment, too, but I think I will take my chances there anyhow.

PeakTrader, there no way to track incidence rates at unlicensed/unregulated places. The need for data is one of the major reasons for regulations. You can't get better in the future unless you know where you are at now.

 
At 1/16/2011 12:46 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Colin,

How can you be sure that the person who donated the food could not make up his mind whether to throw it in the dumpster or donate it? Is it really any less "dumpster diving" just because some unsuspecting person is serving it to you on a plate in a building?

 
At 1/16/2011 12:57 PM, Blogger Colin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 1/16/2011 12:57 PM, Blogger Colin said...

Of course, this might happen in a licensed establishment, too, but I think I will take my chances there anyhow.

Why can't I have that choice as a free person? Why can't I frequent the establishments I want to? Why must the government protect me from myself?

How can you be sure that the person who donated the food could not make up his mind whether to throw it in the dumpster or donate it? Is it really any less "dumpster diving" just because some unsuspecting person is serving it to you on a plate in a building?

You're right, it is entirely possible the free food handed out could be crawling with foodborne illnesses. But shouldn't it be the right of the people receiving the food to decide whether they want to take that chance? Isn't this the land of the free?

Also, yes, accepting food that was going to be discarded is absolutely preferable to fishing the same food out of a garbage can or dumpster, which is plainly less hygienic.

 
At 1/16/2011 1:06 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Walt, businesses tend to cut corners when the cost of business is high. So, how do you know businesses with a license are safer?

The government could be useful collecting data and providing information, whether or not there are licenses.

 
At 1/16/2011 1:32 PM, Blogger Simon said...

Life is an important matter and will be from now on subject to a licence.

As you don't have that licence, we are sending a squad to shoot you.

Best regards,

Local tyrannic authority

 
At 1/16/2011 1:49 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Also, who knows, someone in a kitchen may be more likely to pick-up and use a $20 cut of filet mignon after it falls on the floor than someone who dropped a $1 hamburger patty.

 
At 1/16/2011 2:35 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"So, how do you know businesses with a license are safer?" You don't, but they have a license to lose: People responding to incentives is Econ 101.

"The government could be useful collecting data and providing information, whether or not there are licenses." From what source besides business, and what incentive would business have to report it without a compliance requirement?

Providing refrigeration for cold food and steam for hot food is part of my trade, so I might look at this differently than a layperson. Did you know that the chance of food poisoning for perishable food increases somewhere around 5% for every degree over 40 for cold food and under 140 for hot food? Food that is stored between those temperatures over four hours must be thrown out because the chance of food poisoning exponentially doubles for every hour after 4 hours. Are donating food sources and food kitchens continuously maintaining these safety factors during storage, transportation, and serving? A lot of safety we take for granted has dedicated people behind the scenes making it work that we are not aware of. Few good things in life happen accidentally.

Colin, I think it is a matter of information symmetry. If perishable food has been stored outside its safety range, even if I am getting it for free, I should know my risks of getting sick to make my own informed choice. Do you want to eat perishable food that has been stored at room temperature for 8 or 10 hours? My personal definition of hungry will change if I know my choices. Ignorance is not always bliss.

 
At 1/16/2011 3:18 PM, Blogger JMG said...

I get the point: it is illegal to donate uncertified food but it is legal to die of hunger. It makes sense: after all death is not an illness.

 
At 1/16/2011 3:20 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Walt, yes, businesses have an incentive to offset costly regulations.

More successful businesses cut corners better than their competitors (both in economic theory and in the real world).

Licenses or food permits are unnecessary to collect data.

 
At 1/16/2011 3:34 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"Licenses or food permits are unnecessary to collect data."

How would you even know how many food establishments you have to collect the data? A general business called "Daves" could be a muffler shop or a restaurant. Of course, the license is also a revenue source for the inspectors' pay.

Business' propensity of cutting corners is the reason for the license. If every group has to be held to the same standards, and the standards are rigorously supported with monetary damages high enough to deter non-compliance, it levels the playing field.

One of the problems with OSHA is that the fines are lower than the compliance expenses with almost no personal responsibility for even willful violations (jail).

 
At 1/16/2011 3:38 PM, Blogger Benjamin said...

They do this in Las Vegas too--you are not allowed to give a man a sandwich on sidewalks or parks.

But hey, you are not allowed to build a skyrise condo in Newport Beach CA, or drill for oil off the coast of Palm Beach FL.

Local government and freedom--not when certain well-heeled people get annoyed.

Try opening up a liquor store in Beverly Hills.

 
At 1/16/2011 3:41 PM, Blogger Jason said...

This is an anti vagrancy law. But It is still another example of government in the way.

Walt, I hear you, but improving things a little bit increases costs quite a bit. The question at hand: Is Houston better off with this law or without it?

From my perspective it's not better off. There will still be homeless, now worse off. And there will be administrative costs that didn't exist before. Lose-lose.

 
At 1/16/2011 3:53 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Well Mark, how is it that you can keep posting examples of stupidity like this one and still be optimistic about the US economy going forward? From what I see you have far too much government getting in the way of too many people.

 
At 1/16/2011 4:01 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Walt, you do a random sample. Also, it's not hard to figure out what people are selling.

In theory, they all have the same regulatory burden or standard, but the business that cuts corners better (e.g. at lower costs or without getting caught) has a competitive advantage.

The government raises the standard and businesses find ways to (effectively) lower the standard. You may end up with a higher standard overall after the regulation, but at a high cost to businesses.

 
At 1/16/2011 4:11 PM, Blogger Colin said...

"So, how do you know businesses with a license are safer?" You don't, but they have a license to lose: People responding to incentives is Econ 101.

People already have an incentive -- it's called competition. If people get sick after eating at a restaurant they will likely stop going there and go to a competitor instead. The vendor has a pretty big incentive to keep the customers happy.

 
At 1/16/2011 4:30 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Jason,

Let's say a 5-year-old boy dies eating an undercooked hamburger and a parent calls to get a law passed so that can't happen again. Should the 5-year-old boy have more protection from dying than a homeless person in a shelter?

Colin,

You want to test your competition theory on your kid? Would a law that only tests for undercooked hamburgers for those under 18 work? I think the idea is to be proactive and prevent the food sickness, and not react after the fact.

PeakTrader,

I get roasted here when I mention playing a system's weaknesses to my strengths :)

I was thinking data using our OSHA 301 recordables more than food licenses. Wouldn't a random sample need to know how many exists in the universe?

 
At 1/16/2011 4:45 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Walt, a random sample is an estimate of the entire population.

 
At 1/16/2011 4:46 PM, Blogger A blog about... said...

You know why nobody comes to America for good food? Because of stupid laws like this.

All the Franken-food in America must be sterile, devoid of nutrients, born in a lab, and wrapped in 6 layers of plastic.

 
At 1/16/2011 5:15 PM, Blogger Jason said...

Walt, next there will laws passed to perform home inspections. After all, there is a law that no child will die without authorization in triplicate. Present your papers, Comrade. Make certain they are up to date next time or it's the gulag for you.

This is absolutely, completely nuts.

 
At 1/16/2011 5:21 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"One of my jobs is to see that all government 'compliance' requirements are met for a 60-year-old, 2 million square foot building that employs 1400 people"...

Well Walt G there's that word again being foisted off by some thoroughly 'parasitic government bureaucrat' and the result is keeping people out of work...

There's no indication that government employees are any better at keeping people safe than some anonymous anybody walking down the street

Thanks che is dead for this link...

COMPLIANCE

 
At 1/16/2011 5:26 PM, Blogger randian said...

The certified kitchen requirement also acts as a de facto ban on food trucks in Houston. In fact, the certified kitchen requirement was created in part to ban food trucks when the city lost a lawsuit regarding a direct ban. The powers that be were so angered by the gall of those who would not obey their betters that they retaliated. There would likely be an active and thriving food truck scene in Houston but for this.

 
At 1/16/2011 5:44 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

PeakTrader,

How do you know how many to randomly sample if you don't know the population that the sample represents? For example, we have a lot of unlicensed front-yard and church barbecue joints selling to the public. Those would not be counted and used to figure out how many to sample. Would the data be correct if the methodology is wrong?

Radian,

Our "roach coach" that drives into the factory every day at lunch has a food license prominently displayed. The food is prepared in a commercial kitchen, and the perishable food holding temperatures are displayed in each compartment with thermometers for anyone to see. We have to assume that safe food handling procedures are used when we are not looking, too.

The last food poisoning I am aware of at our factory was from a six-foot long sub that eight workers on third shift ate that was left from first shift a few years ago (they thought it was left from second shift a couple hours earlier). The multi-serving sandwich was brought in and left by people who did not know any better. Bad information coupled with ignorance often causes problems.

juandos,

We just try to do our jobs that we are assigned. If it's any consolation, there are not many of us left :)

 
At 1/16/2011 6:03 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

juandos,

Nice article "Compliance", and I believe it hit the nail on the head. The perspective changes when it hits close to home. How much would you have your company pay to guard a piece of equipment that has an incidence rate of 1 finger amputation to the second joint per 100,000 hours? Would the amount you spend change if only your family members were ever going to run the machine?

If you spend the money, no fingers are lost, but the company that does not spend the money puts you out of business because they have lower costs. Helluva choice, isn't it? This is not just common sense stuff when you are put into a position of potential responsibility that cost human health and lives.

 
At 1/16/2011 7:39 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"If you spend the money, no fingers are lost, but the company that does not spend the money puts you out of business because they have lower costs. Helluva choice, isn't it?"...

Yes Walt G, the choices suck for everyone concerned...

In our litigious society and having an overreaching government in combination might be one of the reasons we see the rise of off-shore manufacturing facilities by American companies...

Trying to engineer more safety into a piece of production equipment can have the effect of taking the 'human' component out of the production line and to the unemployment line...

 
At 1/16/2011 8:41 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

Walt, you'll need to define "food establishments" before taking a random sample.

It's possible to take a random sample of household kitchens in a city, state, or country (if a law was passed), rather than selecting all household kitchens.

 
At 1/16/2011 10:08 PM, Blogger Ben Eng said...

This is just applying basic economics to eliminate poverty. If you starve the homeless, you'll get less of them.

 
At 1/16/2011 11:32 PM, Blogger West said...

Thanks for the highlight, Prof Perry.

I was going to post further thoughts on the subject, but I'm losing my cognitive processes for the night & will quit while I am ahead.

 
At 1/17/2011 8:17 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

juandos,

My job is to make sure the person lives to make it to the unemployment line and has a hand to sign the check with. Jobs are rather useless to dead people. When you see a non-union coal miner, ask him what he thinks about his job. The ones I talk to would love to have union safety representatives, but they know the mines will not operate with as much profit or at all if all the safety rules are followed. When the fine for violations are much less than the fines for compliance, why would a businessman spend the money?

As far as the food discussion, I guess the questions boil down to if the food is safe to eat or not and who makes that determination. If we don't care, we might as well supply coat hangers to pregnant teenage girls because they will find one in the trash can anyway.

 
At 1/17/2011 11:34 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

My job is to make sure the person lives to make it to the unemployment line and has a hand to sign the check with.

You mean to say that without you on the job people would be dying because they (and their employers) are too stupid to ensure their safety? Somehow I doubt that you care more about people getting hurt than those people, their employers, and the insurance companies that have to pay out when there is an accident.

 
At 1/17/2011 11:47 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

When the fine for violations are much less than the fines for compliance, why would a businessman spend the money?

Many of the 'violations' based on arbitrary rules. If I have a stand with a 5.875" kick plate because that is what I designed why am I in violation when some idiot in the government decides that the minimum height is 6"? Why should I spend hundreds of man-hours and thousands of dollars in material when I have never had any incident attributable to an inadequate kick plate?

But if you go and do an inspection and I have 200 stands I get a report with 200 violations on it. This is exactly what happened at a place that I worked at. The CAW decided to teach the company a lesson and walked out because it 'felt' that conditions were unsafe. Under the legislation only a designated rep could do investigations and bring people back. Because we had only two reps and 5,000 people the walkout was slated to last for months.

I did the first walk-around with the union and the government inspector. I chose the worst shop that there was to see where we stood. We were told to raise one screen a few inches some time over the next month but that there were no material violations. The next day management sent out all of the work in that shop to a vendor. Three months later we lost three programs even though they were low cost. It seemed that corporate feared the uncertainty premium and had decided to wind up operations in Canada. They used the work packages as a way to buy votes in the Senate for various military programs. If the Senator from Utah would vote a certain way then the empennage would go to Salt Lake City. Need a vote from Florida? Then give the state the F-18 pylons that we were making. Etc. Etc. Etc.

By the way, the main worry was aluminum dust in the air. There was one violation on that front. That was in the parking lot where swirling wind sent a bit too much clay into the sensor intakes. The readings in the plant did not even register. The 5,000 jobs went away and a plant that had build airplanes since the 1930s was finally closed in 2002.

 
At 1/17/2011 2:28 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

VangeIV,

I hear your argument every time I give someone a B+ instead of an A- for an 89% accomplishment in class. Rules or standards do tend to be arbitrary by design. You can't sledge hammer a no-go gage into a hole and still call the part good. You need to make the hole bigger or the gage smaller (change the standard). Don't blame the gage (person) because they are just trying to do their job.


I don't think the average person knows all the industrial dangers that exist when they enter a factory to protect themselves, and it would be way too expensive to train each one. I will do the best job I can to be sure everyone is as safe as I possibly can using my experience and knowledge. I hope I never have to see someone cut in half or burned beyond recognition again.

 
At 1/17/2011 2:37 PM, Blogger Junkyard_hawg1985 said...

"Isn't this the land of the free?" - Colin

Not according to the most recent economic freedom index. We are now just the land of the "mostly free."

 
At 1/17/2011 3:07 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I hear your argument every time I give someone a B+ instead of an A- for an 89% accomplishment in class. Rules or standards do tend to be arbitrary by design. You can't sledge hammer a no-go gage into a hole and still call the part good. You need to make the hole bigger or the gage smaller (change the standard). Don't blame the gage (person) because they are just trying to do their job.

You have not made the case that many of the rules that are imposed on workers and employers are anything but arbitrary. A designer knows what he wants his product to do and writes specific specifications that are necessary to make it properly. But bureaucrats apply one standard over a broad spectrum regardless of its applicability to specific situations.

I don't think the average person knows all the industrial dangers that exist when they enter a factory to protect themselves, and it would be way too expensive to train each one. I will do the best job I can to be sure everyone is as safe as I possibly can using my experience and knowledge. I hope I never have to see someone cut in half or burned beyond recognition again.

But the 'average' person does not walk around in a factory by himself so he has no need for your protection. People who are in the factories have specific jobs that they need to understand, and that includes the safety rules that are created by the people who have designed the processes that are used to create the products. From your description of what you do it seems to me that you may be a non-value-added parasite who makes a living by relying on the productivity of the people who do the real work.

 
At 1/17/2011 3:08 PM, Blogger randian said...

I don't think the average person knows all the industrial dangers that exist when they enter a factory to protect themselves, and it would be way too expensive to train each one

Fortunately, you don't have to. The factory designer does know. No government need be involved.

 
At 1/17/2011 3:39 PM, Blogger Mike said...

If I was this guy, I'd just keep doing it by telling the homeless people what time and which trash cans I'd be "throwing away" the bags of food. Problem solved.

 
At 1/17/2011 4:44 PM, Blogger Doug said...

I think the bureaucrats in Houston could stand to read a little Maslow...

 
At 1/17/2011 5:31 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

Walt G. said...

"Correction: That's none eliminate the risk to zero."

You were correct before. Now you are redundant.

 
At 1/17/2011 5:50 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Ron H.,

You are correct. That should be attempt to lower the risk to zero. Good catch.

 
At 1/17/2011 6:10 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

VangeIV,

I am the guy who makes sure that drink of water you take from the drinking fountain is drinkable and the air that you breathe is safe. Those are not normal conditions in an industrial environment, but we have people who take it for granted.

You are correct about a lot of the production work having written standards, but most of our skilled trades' work is non-routine and we have to write pre-operation workorders for a lot of them. The days of cutting an old pipe without checking for lead paint or asbestos insulation are over.

Unlike some people, I quietly and respectfully go about my job without calling people names.

 
At 1/17/2011 6:42 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"PeakTrader, I have some hamburger meat that is three days old I could not give or sell to a licensed restaurant that wished to stay in business, yet I might find an unlicensed place to take it and give it away or even perhaps sell it. Should poor people be exposed to more dangers those with money have?"

Why not allow those poor people to decide for themselves whether to risk getting sick or going hungry? They're not helpless children, are they? Give them a little respect.

As for incentives, if we can assume a food server is interested in staying in business, they have a strong incentive to not make people sick. This is true whether they have a license or not. In fact, if they do have a license, and are in compliance and someone gets sick, they are less accountable than otherwise, as the inspector who passed them has assumed some of the responsibility.

Also, I liked your imaginative story about the taco vendor and his animal filled kitchen. what you failed to include, however, was the important information that plumber's cousin is also a taco vendor, and is now the only one serving your location.

 
At 1/17/2011 7:04 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Ron H.,

I was not going to mention this, but I volunteer for an adult literacy program and a church food kitchen that feeds the homeless along with anyone else that stops in (we don't ask questions). The kitchen is licensed and inspected. I also work for Project Heat that helps low income people with their heating problems for free. I always give the customers respect. Thanks for your concern.

 
At 1/17/2011 7:24 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

I am the guy who makes sure that drink of water you take from the drinking fountain is drinkable and the air that you breathe is safe.

I think that your role is that of a parasite. The people that should make sure that the water is safe are those that sell it to me. If their water was not safe they should go out of business and someone else should use the assets to provide high quality water. In the US the problem with water is the monopoly status that is granted by the municipalities, which usually own the water utility. There would be no problem in a free market system because it would punish bad actors without the need for parasites like you.

Those are not normal conditions in an industrial environment, but we have people who take it for granted.

Of course they are normal conditions. People who design production lines know how to make them safe much more than parasites who try to come up with arbitrary or obvious rules that they apply to every operation no matter how inappropriate the application may be.

You are correct about a lot of the production work having written standards, but most of our skilled trades' work is non-routine and we have to write pre-operation workorders for a lot of them. The days of cutting an old pipe without checking for lead paint or asbestos insulation are over.

Trades need to have a standard that they work to that ensures that they know how to handle equipment and work safely. They care about their own lives more than any outsider would.

Unlike some people, I quietly and respectfully go about my job without calling people names.

If I made my living as a parasite off the productive class I would be quiet about it too. But you don't seem to be.

 
At 1/17/2011 7:31 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

As for incentives, if we can assume a food server is interested in staying in business, they have a strong incentive to not make people sick.

In the evenings (1995-1996) I would see a small food market develop outside of my hotel in Xi'an. The little food carts were not licensed and there was nobody looking to ensure that they followed all the arbitrary rules. But after a while any observer noticed that a few of them got a great deal of business. They were the ones who had been there a long time and provided affordable food at good prices without making the customers sick. I used to buy some food at this little market and never got sick. The market did a very good job at regulating the operations. If you were desperate and could not afford the slightly higher prices of the established vendors you tried the new guys who charged less. If they were any good and could provide food consistently they got to be near the top and charge higher prices in a while. If one of them came up with some innovation that was popular the competitors would copy it and the food would improve for most of the people in the market.

If our friend had his way most of the vendors would be out of business and those that were left would have the opportunity to charge much higher prices. While there might be a few less people getting sick that would mostly be because there were so many fewer people eating, not because the quality was any better in the regulated market.

 
At 1/17/2011 8:04 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

VangeIV,

You obviously do not know Michigan's plumbing code. Let me fill you in. The municipality owns the pipe and owes you clean and safe water to the meter. After the meter, the building owner owns all the piping and is responsible for your safe drinking water.

Our factory has hundreds of miles of pipe with different clear liquids most would consider water, but we only have one potable/drinking water source. All the other water sources are treated with various chemicals unfit and deadly to drink for industrial processes. All of our protection devices have to be tested once per year to determine they still work and the various water lines cannot be connected together (backflow and cross connection). This is just one example of the complexities of an industrial building. There are many more.

You and Ron H. might want to get together and see if you can get a discount for a class in public relations and inter-personal skills. Both of you can be very rude at times.

 
At 1/17/2011 8:08 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

You and Ron H. might want to get together and see if you can get a discount for a class in public relations and inter-personal skills. Both of you can be very rude at times.

I don't know about Ron am trying to be rude in this case. While I have a lot of time for people who are confused or make interesting arguments even if I disagree with them I do not have as much time as I used to to anti-liberty, statist panderers to power.

 
At 1/17/2011 8:42 PM, Blogger Ron H. said...

"I would see a small food market develop outside of my hotel in Xi'an. The little food carts were not licensed and there was nobody looking to ensure that they followed all the arbitrary rules."

It's amazing how well this seems to work in many parts of the world. I suspect it worked well in in the US in years past, before the market in politicians became so pervasive.

"...anti-liberty, statist panderers to power."

That's a good one! I'll have to remember it. what do you think, Walt, does it fit?

 
At 1/18/2011 6:59 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

"Walt, does it fit?"

Possibly. I wonder sometimes when someone cuts their own hand off doing something stupid if we should just let people injure or kill themselves. And then I walk into a building I never been in before and I hope the guy who is in charge of the safety there has checked to see if the fire system works, the crash doors are unblocked and will open, and the emergency lighting works so I can get out in case of a fire. Of course, I don't want to pay his wage in the products as I must to see that happens because I am greedy, so I want the option to buy in the firetrap down the road to save a few bucks and will chance dying to do so.

Either way, I should be able to make an informed decision between the two buildings, so I want a sign on the firetrap that says they do not inspect the building's safety features because there is a good chance I will not be able to tell by looking. An "Enter at Your Own Risk" sign would do it. There should be a law like that :)

 
At 1/18/2011 8:34 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

I wonder sometimes when someone cuts their own hand off doing something stupid if we should just let people injure or kill themselves.

But you can't make people smart by thinking for them or by providing a false sense of security. You ASSUME that people are so stupid that without you they will be dying or getting maimed. I do not think that is the case.

 
At 1/18/2011 8:39 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

That food poisoning is a problem in the U.S. is a fact documented by the CDC. Estimates are 76 million people get food poisoning a year (that's 1 out of 4) and 5,000 people die per year from it (3,000 people died in the 9/11 tragedy).

I think we can question how well our food safety programs work and how much of that is an individual's responsiblity, but I think it is apparent that food poisoning is a huge problem. You could even make a humanitarain case that our soldiers should be over here protecting our food supply instead of overseas fighting terrorists.

 
At 1/18/2011 8:51 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

All of our safety incident review statements from accident survivors starts with either: "I didn't know . . ." or "I didn't think . . ." We can fix ignorance from the first statement with education but not stupidity from the second statement.

There are things that bite that people don't know about. We can't afford to send everyone to training to test for all the risks in a factory, and a lot of them are not obvious until something tragic happens.

Low probabilty events increase to high probablty events with repetition. That's why long-time employees get injured using bad safety practices. Which of the excuses above are the Hennings going to use five or ten years from now when a lot of people die from their food? I am assuming they don't know how the donated food was prepared or handled before they received it, and that they know the proper serving precautions.

 
At 1/18/2011 10:12 AM, Blogger VangelV said...

And then I walk into a building I never been in before and I hope the guy who is in charge of the safety there has checked to see if the fire system works, the crash doors are unblocked and will open, and the emergency lighting works so I can get out in case of a fire.

You mean that people who own buildings don't care as much about fire hazards as you do? Or that the people who work there don't care about fire safety? How did we ever survive before the parasites got into the act to make us safe?

Of course, I don't want to pay his wage in the products as I must to see that happens because I am greedy, so I want the option to buy in the firetrap down the road to save a few bucks and will chance dying to do so.

No, I would rather pay someone who is more productive and does value added work that actually increases safety, not a parasite who is not accountable or productive.

Either way, I should be able to make an informed decision between the two buildings, so I want a sign on the firetrap that says they do not inspect the building's safety features because there is a good chance I will not be able to tell by looking. An "Enter at Your Own Risk" sign would do it. There should be a law like that :)

Why are you walking around in factories to begin with?

 
At 1/18/2011 10:24 AM, Blogger Walt G. said...

VangeIV,

The restaurant I ate at last night had a blocked and locked fire door and burned out Exit sign, but I did notice they had a current food license posted at the cash register :) I suppose I would have lived long enough to burn up trapped in a fire.

I suggest Dale Carnegie classes for you :)

 
At 1/18/2011 12:54 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

That food poisoning is a problem in the U.S. is a fact documented by the CDC. Estimates are 76 million people get food poisoning a year (that's 1 out of 4) and 5,000 people die per year from it (3,000 people died in the 9/11 tragedy).

If food safety is a problem it means that the regulator is not doing the job even though billions have been spent. It looks to me that you can argue that the government has clearly failed to protect the public even as it has propped up incompetent producers who would have been liquidated by the marketplace.

I think we can question how well our food safety programs work and how much of that is an individual's responsiblity, but I think it is apparent that food poisoning is a huge problem.

Is it? People have been dying from food poisoning throughout history and modern rates are significantly lower than the damage done in the past. That has little to do with government and a lot to do with advances in packaging and handling methods.

You could even make a humanitarain case that our soldiers should be over here protecting our food supply instead of overseas fighting terrorists.

Only if you are an idiot who can't think very clearly. 'Your' soldiers should be working for the private sector being productive members of society.

 
At 1/18/2011 12:59 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Low probabilty events increase to high probablty events with repetition.

Get a dictionary or a book on logic. If an event happens frequently then it isn't a low probability event. If an employee loses a finger every time 10,000,000 rivets are installed a shift that installs 50,000,000 in an eight hour period will lead to many fingers being cut off. Nobody would tolerate such an outcome by arguing that the odds of any one installation leading to damage low.

That's why long-time employees get injured using bad safety practices. Which of the excuses above are the Hennings going to use five or ten years from now when a lot of people die from their food? I am assuming they don't know how the donated food was prepared or handled before they received it, and that they know the proper serving precautions.

I guess that if they dive from malnutrition the odds of them dying from food poisoning goes down. Great argument. You might want to advance it a bit further.

 
At 1/18/2011 1:00 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

The restaurant I ate at last night had a blocked and locked fire door and burned out Exit sign, but I did notice they had a current food license posted at the cash register :) I suppose I would have lived long enough to burn up trapped in a fire.

If it is unsafe don't go. Even someone as dim as you seem to be should be able to figure that out.

 
At 1/18/2011 1:13 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

VangeIV,

Personally, I think the difference between a developed country and an undeveloped country is how good your chances are of not dying or getting hurt on the job. It takes public, private, union, and management to see that happens. Everyone needs to be proactive to see that number one priority happens--there is simply no such thing as too safe.

Our biggest critics are our biggest criers when they get hurt. I accept that you don't agree with my position and ideas, but rest assured I will do everything to make sure you have safe employment if you come into a place where that is my job--even if you don't pass your Dale Carnegie class.

 
At 1/18/2011 1:19 PM, Blogger Hydra said...

The tyrrany of permits, is that they are often unavailable or have unrealistic requirements.

In my county, to file for a zoning change can easily cost $100,000, just to fill out the paperwork, and then the permit will almost certainly be denied.

A requirement to obtain a permit ought to imply that permission is available.

 
At 1/18/2011 1:29 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

...It takes public, private, union, and management to see that happens. Everyone needs to be proactive to see that number one priority happens--there is simply no such thing as too safe.

But there is such a thing as too safe. Life is full of risk and any activity that we undertake has the potential of creating a problem for us or others. There comes a point after which further limitations and restrictions to improve safety make no sense. The problem is that regulators and parasites don't really know where the line is and are in no position to draw it. That is why they need to be out of the picture and to have workers and employers determine the procedures. Parasites like you do not belong in the process or make it work better.

 
At 1/18/2011 2:12 PM, Blogger Walt G. said...

Everyone has a different opinion of acceptable risk that changes due to the circumstances. That level changes when your hand is cut off in a power press and falls down the scrap chute.

 

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