By Bruce Rolfsen
Businesses that underwent state safety inspections in California saved money,
on average, because the reviews lowered workers' compensation and other medical
costs, according to a study published May 18 in Science magazine.
Employers saw a 26 percent drop in injury-related costs and a 9.4 percent
decline in injury rates in the four years following inspections, the report
And when the authors, three professors from Harvard Business School and the
University of California's Hass School of Business, looked at whether inspected
employers were more likely to go out of business or experience a drop in sales
than uninspected establishments, the researchers found no significant
“We were surprised by the magnitude of the effect,” Michael Toffel, an
associate professor at Harvard Business School, told BNA May 21 about the
The study, Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries
With No Detectable Job Loss, examined 409 companies inspected by the
California Division of Occupational Safety and Health from 1996 to 2006. The
authors compared how those employers fared with results at similar
establishments that were not inspected.
The researchers decided to focus on California inspections because Cal/OSHA
has a program that randomly inspects employers in industries with high injury
and illness rates, even if there are no reported injuries or complaints at the
businesses, Toffel said. The state's size ensures a large and diverse selection
of establishments under a single set of rules.
David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and
health, in a May 21 blog post, said
the study findings supported his argument that “OSHA doesn't kill jobs; it helps
prevent jobs from killing workers.”
At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Marc Freedman, executive director of labor
law policy, challenged the notion that more inspections are better. “The study
says nothing about comparing outcomes from more enforcement with outcomes from
more resources being put into cooperative programs,” he told BNA May 21.