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Occupational licensure is not an impediment — it makes people safer

On Aug. 29, 2007, firefighters rushed into a blaze at the Tai Ho Mandarin and Cantonese Restaurant in West Roxbury. Unknown to them at the time was that grease had built up in the duct work above the stoves over many years. The grease caused the fire to spread, and the roof collapsed. Two firefighters were killed.

The investigation revealed that the duct work was not done properly. Changes were made, regulations were instituted, and sheet metal workers — who install those types of ducts — became licensed by the state. There haven’t been casualties from a similar type of fire since.

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Licensure and regulation in dozens of industries have improved efficiency, increased quality, made the public safer, and saved lives. Unfortunately, that apparently isn’t good enough for the Pioneer Institute and Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, who decry licensing and regulation as an onerous overreach of the state (“The counterproductive cruelties of occupational licensing,” Opinion, Nov. 14). The Pioneer Institute released a report that criticizes occupational licensure in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, much of the research came from the Institute for Justice, a Koch brothers-funded conservative law firm based in Virginia.

Jacoby expanded on the slanted report. He questioned the licensing and training mandated of sheet metal workers, saying, “There is nothing particularly complex or dangerous” about the work. That’s a ridiculous and dangerous statement that ignores facts, history, and common sense.

Massachusetts requires occupational licensure because it saves lives and makes people safer, plain and simple.

Robert Butler

Business manager

Sheet Metal Workers Local 17

Dorchester

Description makes light of work it takes to be an EMT

In his column “The counterproductive cruelties of occupational licensing,” Jeff Jacoby gives a faulty impression when he asserts that “an applicant for a Massachusetts EMT license has to complete just 150 hours of education to qualify,” and that “you can do the critical lifesaving work of an emergency first responder after little more than a month of study.”

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In fact, more is required. As the mother of an EMT, I have learned that in order to obtain certification, EMT candidates must prove their knowledge of emergency medical services by passing the National Registry EMT exam, and they must demonstrate their EMS capabilities by successfully completing state-approved skills exams.

I am grateful for these first responders, who provide vital emergency services to our communities.

Lynda Wallace Merullo

Marblehead