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OSHA's Safety Tests Protect Workers at Little Cost: Study
Date:5/17/2012

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 17 (HealthDay News) -- Government's workplace safety inspections reduce on-the-job injuries and related costs without hurting company profits, a new U.S. study finds.

To reach their conclusion, researchers looked at data on 409 California businesses randomly inspected by the state's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and 409 similar workplaces that weren't inspected.

Their finding counters the belief that government regulation of industry safety kills jobs, an idea dear to many conservatives and libertarians.

"We found that workplace inspections worked pretty much the way they are supposed to. They improved safety, and they did not cost firms enough that we could detect it," said lead researcher Michael Toffel, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School in Boston.

Comparing worker safety and corporate bottom lines in high-hazard industries, the researchers sought evidence to back charges that OSHA kills jobs, he said. They wanted to know if OSHA inspections were so disruptive or costly that they affected sales or led to layoffs, financial instability or closure.

"We found no evidence that these types of problems were happening in any systematic way following inspections, Toffel said.

The report is published in the May 18 issue of Science.

For the study, Toffel's group analyzed data from a study of workplace safety inspections conducted by California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

The researchers found that in high-hazard industries, inspections reduced injury claims 9.4 percent and cut workers' compensation costs by 26 percent in the four years following inspection, compared with similar uninspected plants.

Inspected companies saved an estimated $355,000 in injury claims and compensation for lost work over that period with no impact on profits, they noted.

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