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June 15, 2012

Two Long-Term Studies Confirm: Safety Inspections Reduce Injury Rates, Costs

Days Without Injury signTwo separate studies that looked at 10 years of workplace injury data have reached the same conclusion: government safety inspections significantly reduce workplace injury rates and costs. Injury rates declined as much as 20 percent and injury costs were reduced 26 percent.

The newest study was conducted by an environmental management expert at Harvard Business School with help from economists at the University of California-Berkeley and Boston University. They studied California workplaces that had been inspected between 1996 and 2006, and compared them to firms that were not inspected. Analysis showed companies undergoing random inspections experienced:
  • 9 percent decline in workplace injuries in the four years following inspection
  • 26 percent decline in cost of injuries - including medical treatment and missed work
  • No effect on employment, total earnings, sales or the survival of the company
"Our study suggests that randomized inspections work as they're meant to, improving safety while not undermining the company's ability to do business," says study author Michael Toffel.

Washington state's Division of Safety & Health reached the same conclusion in October, when it released results of a study of inspection data and workers' compensation claims from 1998 through 2008. This study found significant reductions in claims and claim costs following a safety inspection or safety consultation, with the greatest impact from inspections with at least one citation. In those cases, worker injury claims were reduced as much as 20 percent over similar worksites that were not inspected.

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