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New study shows that workplace inspections save lives, don't destroy jobs
Date:5/21/2012

al years collecting data, not just on injuries, which is very important, but also on other indicators to see whether inspections led to problems they are often accused of causing like whether they increased costs and led to the elimination of jobs. We looked at company survival, employment, sales and total payroll to see if inspections were detrimental to the employers," said Levine.

"Across the numerous outcomes we looked at, we never saw any evidence of inspections causing harm," Toffel explained. "If OSHA inspections conducted in all 50 states are as valuable as the ones we studied, inspections improve safety worth roughly $6 billion to employers and employees, ignoring pain and suffering. The overall message of our research is that these inspections worked pretty much the way one would hope. They improved safety, and they didn't cost firms enough that we could detect it."

In future work, the research team hopes to better understand which subsets of firms benefit most from inspections and whether the inspections yield benefits in other domains such as improved compliance with environmental regulations.

Beyond workplace safety, the authors believe that randomized trials could be used widely throughout government and business to evaluate new policies, from environmental regulations to educational programs.

"More trials like this would help us find out where regulations work and where they don't," Toffel said. "Because the cost of regulations is very real, governments should be investing constantly to learn how to make them as effective and efficient as possible."

Additional information about the study:

  • The cost savings applied to both small (less than $2000) and large (more than $2000) workers' compensation claims, and the reduced injuries and cost savings lasted for at least four years after the inspection. These findings suggest the inspections had a lasting, across-the-board effect.

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Contact: Jim Aisner
jaisner@hbs.edu
617-495-6157
Harvard Business School
Source:Eurekalert

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