You have to keep in mind time scales. It seems that you almost think this stuff poofs itself into existence. But it's not true. There is plenty of up front costs; and those costs would prevent a company from implementing changes such as safer work conditions and investment into innovation. A company can get caught in a local minimum; but that doesn't mean it necessarily inhabits the global minimum. A company makes money. If there is no outside force; they will do whatever it takes, by whatever means necessary to do so. If it takes investment and time to reap benefits, many companies will not go that route. That's because they are unwilling to take the short term loss for the long term gain. Not when they have to compete against other companies. The only way to elicit change such as safer work conditions is to have an agency which can uniformly apply rules and a system of oversight to ensure that the rules are enforced. This happens to be the government. Some amount of regulation is necessary. You're taking a well too simplified and generalized overview of the dynamics of economics and the time scales involved to produce positive change.