Safety Inspections Save Lives, Don’t Hurt Business


Written by Mike Hall

We’ve known this for decades and now the journal Science has empirical proof that workplace safety and health inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) save lives, reduce employers’ costs for workers’ compensation and do not have any negative economic effect on the inspected businesses.

The authors of the study—three professors from the University of California, Harvard Business School and Boston University—say they set out to answer a simple question: Do government regulations kill jobs—as business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republican lawmakers claim—or protect the public?

The authors studied 409 California industries that had high injury rates and were inspected by California OSHA from 1996 through 2006. It compared results at those businesses with 409 similar companies that were not inspected in that time period.

Inspected workplaces recorded 9.4 percent fewer injuries. The inspected firms also saved 26 percent on workers’ compensation costs in the four years following the inspection, compared with uninspected workplaces. On average, inspected firms saved an estimated $355,000 in injury claims and compensation for lost work over that period. What’s more, there was no discernible impact on the companies’ profits.

In addition, says study author and Harvard professor Michael Toffel, “We never saw any evidence of inspections causing harm.”

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.

AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario says the study:

tells us is that protecting your workers on the job and keeping them safe is good for workers but is also good for business. What’s too costly is not addressing injuries and illnesses. We can’t afford not to protect people.

Click here to read the findings and here for the latest edition of the AFL-CIO report “Death on the Job.”

BTW, here’s another thing we’ve known for decades: No matter how much evidence there is that workplace safety and health rules and inspections are good for workers and employers, some will turn their backs on the facts and science. The National Association of Manufacturers, a group that rails against OSHA and job safety regulations, says the study’s findings are basically meaningless, though they do believe the world is round.

This post was originally published by the AFL-CIO.


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Photo from Thinkstock


Kay Redmon
Kay Redmon4 years ago

It's always easier just to ignore something until it jumps up & smacks you in the face. After the horrific fire & injuries that occurred in the disaster someone will have to pay wether they like it or not. I hope the worker's sue the fertilizer company for everything they have, the some more. Isn't it a disgrace that these companies force their worker's to carry on under dangerous conditions with a care to their health or well being. It's easy to see where the National Association of Manufactures feelings lie, THEY DID ADMIT TO THE WORLD BEING ROUND..Very big of them, but did it help those who were killed or maimed ??? Not at all..
What is the good of having Occupational Health & Safety in the work place if it means nothing, no one is prepared to follow through on any recommendations made, it might cost a few dollars to save a life or prevent some injuries, it's going to cost a lot more now, as they will find out .It's such a shame it's the poor worker's that had to suffer instead of those who wouldn't get their hands dirty, the only working part of their bodies were their mouths..They'll have to keep it working now trying to explain how & why the safety procedures were not in place to protect those worker's..They are responsible in every way, shape & form. As the old saying goes, MONEY IS THE ROOT OF ALL EVIL...a few dollars spent may have prevented this tragedy...

Robert O.
Robert O4 years ago

This is indeed very true.

Kevin Cline
Past Member 5 years ago


Christine C.
Chandra C5 years ago


John Mansky
John Mansky5 years ago

Thank you for the article...

Ian Fletcher
Ian Fletcher5 years ago

Safety inspections are vital to business and endorse business in the long run. More safety please!

Troy G.
Troy Grant5 years ago

If its good, conservatives will be against it.

Phil P.
Phil P5 years ago

The only harm inspections cause is perhaps the adverse effect on the corporation's profit margin. Face it, it's a proven fact that that it's cheaper to pay a claim to the survivors of an employee(s) killed in a mining accident than spend many millions on mine safety or pay for accidents due to faulty car parts than recall 10 million cars to fix the $1000 problem.

This is the same reasoning various industries lobby Congress to eliminate inspectors and/or abolish the EPA, FDA, OSHA, etc, etc. The pesky inspectors find problems and take extra profits away from corporations and owners.

If Medicare were to hire 1000 more auditors to review claims, they would pay for themselves 1000 times over by eliminating billions in fraud claims. But according to Repugnuts and blue dogs, that would be growing government but it would be OK to hire private contractors to run the government's business since they make contributions to Congressmen/women and government employees don't.

Jeffrey H.
Jeffrey H.5 years ago

Workplace safety is an obscenity to many businessmen -- they absolutely hate OSHA because safety adversely affects their maximization of profits and executive bonuses immediately even though it reduces insurance costs and lawsuits against the business (which are ignored in cost analyses since they aren't incurred when they are prevented) and promotes good will between employees and employers.

Myopic businesses don't realize the obvious importance of sound safety practices and the inherentwisdom of "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" until they have to pay astronomical lawsuit judgments and litigation fees.

Sue H.
Sue H5 years ago

This is a no brainer issue. Saving a few $$ instead of respecting the lives of workers is Bad Business.