A new study by the Harvard Business School finds that workplace safety inspections by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration help prevent on-the-job injuries without hurting profits.
The OSHA study examined worker safety at California companies operating in high-hazard industries. A major finding was that regular safety inspections decreased injury claims by 9.4 percent. Worker’s compensation costs went down 26 percent in the four years following the inspection when compared with similar uninspected plants.
The companies regularly inspected for possible safety violations saved a total of $355,000 in injury claims and worker’s compensation. Interestingly, no evidence surfaced that safety inspections were so costly or disruptive that they resulted in lower sales, layoffs of plant closures. The May 18 issue of Science contains the full report.
Limitations of the Recent Study
The study only examined high-hazard industries with ten or more employees, and it only examined companies operating in California. Therefore, its findings may not be applicable across the board.
It is unclear whether the study’s finding would be the same for all companies or for companies in low-risk industries. It is likely that firms that were inspected had detected weaknesses and seized the opportunity to correct any problems. The inspections also likely served as a reminder for the companies to follow existing safety protocols.
Safety Inspections Are Worth the Effort
Regardless, these inspections can have a positive effect on a company’s bottom line by decreasing the amount spent on lost work and injury claims. Contrary to the long-held views of many employers, safety inspections and regulations may be good for business as well as safety.
Source: U.S. News & World Report, “OSHA’s Safety Tests Protect Workers at Little Cost: Study“, Steven Reinberg, May 17, 2012