OSHA Doesn’t Kill Jobs – It Helps Prevent Jobs From Killing Workers

Friends and Colleagues –

All of us in the OSHA family have dedicated our working lives to protecting the safety and health of this nation’s workers. While we recognize that most employers want to do the right thing and we need to assist them, we also recognize the value of worksite inspections, where our CSHOs enforce compliance with our standards. This work isn’t easy and we are constantly challenged to prove that inspections are an effective way to improve workplace safety.  But we understand that inspections compel employers to abate hazards, thereby preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities.

We also know the truth of the expression “safety pays.” Investment in safety doesn’t kill jobs, but instead makes businesses more productive and improves employers’ bottom line.

This isn’t new — we know all of this from our experience and observation, and from numerous analyses performed by academics and evaluators.

But now the effectiveness of OSHA’s enforcement activities is convincingly confirmed by three rigorous studies, all recently published prestigious peer review journals.

I’ve written this up in a Commentary (attached) just published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.   In that piece, entitled OSHA Does Not Kill Jobs; It Helps Prevent Jobs From Killing Workers, I summarize the results of these important new studies that measure the powerful positive impact of OSHA’s programmed inspections.

I’m circulating this Commentary (summarized below) so that you can help convey the importance and value of OSHA inspections to those who may not be aware of these studies. Please feel free to share it with stakeholders and others who care about protecting the health and safety of workers.

The first study was done by professors at the University of California, Berkeley and Harvard Business Schools, and published in the very prestigious Science Magazine in May, 2012.  Those researchers found that OSHA inspections reduced injury rates by 9.4% and workers’ compensation costs by 26% in the four years following the inspection, with no impact on employment, sales, credit rating or firm survival. (This study can be downloaded from http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6083/907).

Now, two more studies have just been published that find similar results: OSHA inspections prevent injuries.

One study examined the impact of OSHA inspections on workers’ compensation claims among employees of Pennsylvania manufacturing firms. These researchers, affiliated with the RAND Corporation, report that where OSHA levies a penalty, injury claims fall by 19-24% per year during the next two years.   Inspections without penalties showed little effect (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22566135).

Another study, done by our colleagues at the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, examined the effectiveness of inspections and free consultations among fixed site and non-fixed site (often construction) employers. In this study, the effect of enforcement was seen primarily in the prevention of injuries related to hazards for which OSHA has safety standards. For those types of inspections which resulted in a citation by Washington State OSHA, lost workday claims fell by more than 20%compared with the baseline (no OSHA inspection) of 2%.  These researchers also found some evidence of the positive impact of consultation services (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22715086).

In summary, these studies demonstrate the beneficial value of OSHA inspections. Please help spread the word, and, if you think it would be useful, give a copy of OSHA Does Not Kill Jobs; It Helps Prevent Jobs From Killing Workers to stakeholders and others interested in OSHA’s effectiveness.

David Michaels, PhD, MPH
Assistant Secretary
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
United States Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room S2315
Washington, DC 20210
202-693-2000
202-693-1659 (fax)

Download PDF file of the article written by Dr. David Michaels here: Michaels OSHA Does Not Kill Jobs

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