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Regulatory Roundup

Kevin Gilheany Regulations are written in blood


January 24, 2013

It’s Mardi Gras season again in New Orleans. If you have been to Mardi Gras parades here you know that ladders line the edges of the curbs along the parade routes.

These ladders are no ordinary ladders. They have three-foot long bench seats attached to the very top where we precariously place our precious babies. It’s enough to give an OSHA inspector a heart attack. How can this be legal? Occasionally, a cop will tell people that they need to move their ladders away from the curb.

Of course, the parents respond that they do this every year and it has never been a problem before. They are reluctant to move and give up their spot when someone else will quickly move in and place their ladder in the same. It is highly unlikely that another cop will come along and tell them to move.

This causes déjà vu. As a Coast Guard inspector, I was that cop. I always enforced the regulations accurately and consistently. I encountered much of the same arguments and resistance. One inspector who trained me said that the regulations were written in blood. That is, some catastrophe had happened that caused the regulations to be written. I took that to heart. Even though I didn’t know what the catastrophe was for each new regulation, I enforced them all. After all, that’s what the taxpayers were paying me to do.

Maybe those few New Orleans cops that occasionally tell confused parents to move their ladders back from the curb remember the story of Christian Lambert.

As it turns out, placing our ladders close to the curb is not legal. In 1985 the New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance that says that ladders must be placed as many feet from the curb as they are high. (However, the law is often openly flouted, particularly on the main St. Charles Ave. parade route.)

The law was passed because of a tragedy that occurred in 1981 at the Krewe of Orleanians parade. Christian Lambert was an eight-year-old boy who was launched from his ladder and was crushed under a float when the crowd surged forward.

Accurate and consistent enforcement is a critical component to ensuring compliance. Understanding the origin and intent of regulations is an essential motivator.

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