Study Shows Safety Inspections Protect Workers and Do Not Hurt Businesses

Researchers have determined that random inspections of businesses in the United States have a measurable impact on the risk of workers being hurt on the job. Inspections lower the danger for workers, and have no negative effect on the businesses being inspected. The report was published in the journal Science.

According to the study, workplaces chosen randomly for inspections by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) showed 9.4 percent fewer injuries, than those that did not receive inspections.

The study also found that safety inspections had no measurable negative impact on business. The companies studied had no greater rate of job loss, decreased sales, or reduced credit ratings than those that did not receive inspections.

Over the four decades of its existence, OSHA has been criticized by labor organizations, which claim it does not do enough to protect workers, and business groups, which claim that it creates unnecessary expenses.

The claim of runaway costs was part of the inspiration for the study. Three professors from Harvard Business School, Boston University and the University of California, decided to put the claim to a test. The researchers said they had no particular expectations, because the rhetoric on both sides was so vitriolic that it was difficult to determine the facts, until the study was complete.

Michael Toffel, of Harvard Business School, one of the authors of the study, said “It seemed like a real puzzle that people had such strong opinions without a whole lot of evidence.”

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