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Laws at their core are intended to protect us, enforce our rights and help resolve disputes.
Laws are usually never invented
overnight. Enduring laws can take
centuries of precedent, research,
philosophy and trials. Laws deter people
from behaving in ways that can cause
But every day I read about cuts
in U.S. regulatory agency staffing,
research, inspections and enforcement,
coupled with a mandate to shed two
rules for every one that is established.
I hear unnerving calls for the
“deconstruction of the administrative
Why is this happening? Have laws
unfairly oppressed or stifled us? Has
innovation been stunted?
More curiously, what do we think
will happen if we relax the rules around
our rights, air, water, food, drugs,
In the mid 1990s, codes started
to change. This was around the time
pipelines were spontaneously erupting
from stress-corrosion cracking.
One thought regulators would
tighten the construction rules but
instead they went the other way.
They wanted to shed the liability for
the construction codes in the event
anything went wrong.
The codes moved from being
“prescriptive” to “performance” based.
They now said the company could bury
the pipeline as deep as they liked as
long as it could be justified with a “risk
assessment” — the first time I came
face-to-face with the term.
With all the newfound freedom,
no rules to follow and no one to say
“gotcha,” we could have designed the
pipeline to any inexpensive depth, and
coupled it with “risk assessment” to
support the decision.
Shareholders would be ecstatic,
right? It would have been so easy to
build to a third of the depth. But, we
We knew, call it a tacit assumption,
that if we ever did cause harm, it would
not be good for business. Running a
safe and reliable pipeline supported our
This precious reputation was our
latchkey to the backyards where we
intended to run pipe, to farms whose
irrigation systems we needed to disrupt
and to aboriginal lands where we
needed to house our equipment.
Without rules, organizations that
don’t self-regulate will eventually fail.
To those organizations that plan to
“benefit” from the deconstruction of
the administration, clearly you are also
planning to fail. &
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is a specialist in
innovative enterprise risk management
methods and implementation techniques.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Risk of
BY JOANNA MAKOMASKI