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Inspections Do Help Prevent Workplace Accidents

How effective are government safety inspections in protecting workers from injuries?

In recent years, many people have questioned the role of government. President Reagan, as a candidate, famously said the government should get off the backs of the American people.

Solid social science evidence shows, however, that government inspections can help prevent workplace injuries. A recent research study looked at 409 high-hazard workplaces that received inspections done by state-level Occupational Safety and Health Administration agencies. The study compared these workplaces with 409 other high-hazard workplaces that were not inspected. Workplaces in the study all had 10 or more employees.

The study, conducted by a Harvard Business School team, tallied injury claims and workers compensation costs. The researchers found that the workplaces that received inspections had 9.4 percent fewer injury claims than the uninspected workplaces in the four years following an inspection. Over the same time period, workers' compensation costs were 26 percent lower for the inspected workplaces.

The inspected companies saved an estimated $355,000 in compensation claims for lost work and injuries. Profits were not affected by the inspections, showing that inspections do not hinder a company in getting its work done.

Although the study surveyed companies in a Western state, the findings apply to the rest of the country as well, including Pennsylvania. The authors suggest that more studies ought to be done to see how effective inspections are for smaller workplaces and lower-risk industries around the country.

Other experts commented that inspections might serve as a reminder to companies about adhering to their existing safety policies. The inspections likely also prompted employers to correct safety issues with equipment and procedures. In short, government inspections are a cost-effective way to help protect Pennsylvanians from workplace injuries.

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

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