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Data show OSHA safety inspections reduce workplace injuries

Pennsylvania and federal workplace laws have been instituted to protect employees from accidents and injuries while on the job. Inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will visit companies from time to time to ensure that they are complying with all applicable regulations.

Some have suggested that such inspections can be counterproductive, causing interruptions at work and diminishing a company's profits. Independent research recently concluded by the Harvard Business School refutes this suggestion, however, revealing that government inspections reduce workplace injuries while not affecting companies' bottom lines in any measurable way.

Researchers examined inspections performed by OSHA on companies operating in industries that posed a high risk of danger to workers. When compared with companies that did not receive an inspection, inspected businesses saw worker injury claims drop by just under 10 percent. Companies also benefited. With fewer workplace accidents, they did not have to pay as many workers' compensation claims. Researchers did not find that inspections negatively affected a company's finances.

Opponents of the results noted that the study was limited to inspections in one state and only in high-risk sectors. Therefore, they argued, the results cannot be readily extrapolated across the entire country or across lower-risk industries. The authors admitted that more studies are needed to confirm the results, but the opponents' objections seemed to assume that OSHA inspections would turn up worse results in other locations.

It is important to note, however, that the opposite could be true: OSHA inspections could produce even better results in other states. In addition, there is little room to deny that the inspections have made workplaces safer for employees in high-risk jobs in that one state.

Source: U.S. News and World Report, "OSHA's Safety Tests Protect Workers at Little Cost: Study," Steven Reinberg, May 17, 2012.

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