A recent study published in Science reports that workplace inspections reduce job-related injuries and their associated costs with minimal harm to companies’ performance and profits.
The researchers examined mandated randomized workplace safety inspections conducted by California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to determine their effect on worker safety and company profits and productivity.
“Because Cal/OSHA typically inspects facilities following complaints or recent accidents, you can't study those inspections to get an unbiased understanding of whether they make a difference,” Michael Toffel, PhD, study co-author from the Harvard School of Business, stated in a press release. “By studying the inspections Cal/OSHA conducted at workplaces selected at random, we were able to overcome this problem to learn the actual impact of inspections.”
The researchers found that within high-hazard industries in California, inspected work places reduced their injury claims by 9.4% and saved 26% on workers’ compensation costs in the 4 years following the inspection compared with uninspected workplaces. They also looked at company survival, employment, sales and total payroll and found that the inspection had no discernible impact.
“Across the numerous outcomes we looked at, we never saw any evidence of inspections causing harm,” Toffel stated in the release. “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.”