Safety inspections don’t hurt businesses-study


Thu May 17, 2012 1:59pm EDT

* OSHA inspections lower injuries by 9.4 pct-study

* Cost of injuries 26 pct lower at inspected sites

* Study finds no financial hit to inspected companies

* Critic says study fails to consider effect of regulation

By Scott Malone

BOSTON, May 17 (Reuters) – Random inspections of U.S.
industrial workplaces lower the risk of workers being injured on
the job and have no measurable negative effect on the companies
inspected, according to a study in the journal Science.

Companies chosen for random inspections by California’s
Occupational Safety and Health Administration recorded 9.4
percent fewer worker injuries than those that were not
inspected, the study found.

The study, to be published on Friday, also found that the
companies inspected were no more likely to cut jobs, lose sales,
have their credit ratings cut or go out of business than those
that were not inspected.

Over its four-decade history, the federal OSHA has come
under fire from both organized labor, which worries that it does
not do enough to protect workers, and from big business, which
argues that it imposes unnecessary costs.

An attorney representing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce told
an April Senate committee hearing into whether OSHA moves too
slowly in developing new regulations that employers view the
agency as unresponsive to businesses’ suggestions.

“Too often there is a perception that OSHA is determined to
pursue a new standard regardless of how it will impact employers
or whether it is justified,” said the attorney, David Sarvadi of
Keller and Heckman.

That sort of concern sparked the idea for the study,
conducted by three professors from the University of California,
Harvard Business School and Boston University.

“We went in not really knowing what to expect, because from
my perspective the rhetoric on both sides seems in some ways
convincing but in some ways extreme,” said Michael Toffel, an
associate professor of business administration at Harvard
Business School and one of the study’s authors. “It seemed like
a real puzzle that people had such strong opinions without a
whole lot of evidence.”

LOWER INJURY COSTS

When injuries were reported, the worker compensation claims
that resulted from them — which account for both the cost of
medical treatment and lost wages — were 26 percent lower in
facilities than were inspected than those that were not.

The study is based on a analysis of 409 California
single-location businesses in industries, including woodworking
and metalworking, that had high injury rates and were inspected
by that state’s OSHA body from 1996 through 2006. It compared
results at those businesses with 409 similar companies that were
not inspected in that time period.

The authors focused on California because at the time the
state’s safety agency conducted some inspections based on random
selection, rather than just focusing on targets of complaints.

An official at the AFL-CIO labor federation said the
findings show that OSHA is effective in promoting safe
workplaces.

“What 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,” said Peg Seminario, director of safety and
health at the AFL-CIO. “What’s too costly is not addressing
injuries and illnesses. We can’t afford not to protect people.”

An official at the National Association of Manufacturers
said the study failed to consider whether the regulations that
OSHA enforces — rather than the inspections — hurt companies
or protect workers.

“The authors are not asking the right question,” said Joe
Trauger, vice president of human resources at the trade group.
“The appropriate question is, ‘Do regulations provide a safer
workplace?’ Random inspections happen after the fact, so if any
job losses were to happen due to regulations, they would have
happened before the inspection took place.”

(Reporting By Scott Malone; editing by John Wallace)

More Safety Info:

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  3. Norcross Construction Company Cited for Safety Violations
  4. Critics say gov’t takes too long on safety rules
  5. Cole: Steps to keep businesses safer

 

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