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Study: Citations Reduce Work Injuries

Thursday, November 5, 2015

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New research confirms previous studies that suggest citations and penalties from workplace inspections reduce injuries that occur on the job.

Researchers with the Canadian-based Institute for Work and Health looked at the outcome of injuries, illnesses and fatalities when inspections, citations and fines were a driving force in compliance. Unlike previous studies, the new research—which examined a period from 1990-2013—also looked at intermediate outcomes, such as compliance.

“What this shows is employers do take steps to prevent work-related injuries for employees when there are direct consequences to them,” said Dr. Emile Tompa, an IWH senior scientist and the lead author on the systematic review, in the summer issue of the non-profit group’s publication At Work.

“But, clearly, no system can have the resources needed to inspect every workplace or issue fines or citations for every violation,” he said.

Research Findings

Tompa, who also was the lead researcher in a 2007 study on the same subject, said his team found strong evidence that inspections without penalties have no effect on reducing injuries. The team also found moderate evidence that the first inspections have the largest effect on compliance rates, while subsequent inspections and penalties have a substantially lower effect.

©iStock.com / Justin Horrocks

Researchers at the Institute for Work and Health said inspections and fines reduce injuries at work and lead to greater compliance than just the threat of an inspection or fine.

Simultaneously, the researchers found moderate evidence that new laws have no effect on reducing injuries. However, Tompa said that the studies on new laws were quite diverse, and he cautioned against concluding that new laws are not needed.

“What we’re talking about here are systems that already have robust legislative frameworks, and the regulations examined in some of the studies were incremental in terms of the protection they provided on a specific hazard,” said Tompa, who also said that some of the new laws may not have had time to effect injury outcome ahead of the analysis.

U.S. Inspection Efforts

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the U.S. recently changed the way it measures inspections to give more complex, time-consuming inspections more weight than others.

The agency—which was created under the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 and sets the standards to protect workers in the U.S.—said the new research confirms that more inspections equal a healthier workplace.

“This confirms what we have been saying for a long time—that OSHA inspections and penalties are important and effective components of a comprehensive strategy to improve workplace safety and health,” said Assistant Secretary Dr. David Michaels in the agency’s Nov. 2 edition of its bi-monthly newsletter, QuickTakes.

“That’s why we have made strong, fair and effective enforcement one of OSHA’s primary objectives in this Administration,” he said.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Fatalities; Government; Health and safety; OSHA; OSHA; Research

Comment from Robert Munn, (11/5/2015, 6:10 AM)

This study is daft, and considering its source, it shouldn't be surprising. If reduction of accidents is the actual goal of enforcement, OSHA should hold individual employees responsible for their own unsafe acts. Furthermore, the inspection protocols used by OSHA, i.e. how the agency goes about deciding where to inspect, are seriously flawed. Most often these inspections are instigated as aa result of a third party phone call. This leaves the system wide open to abuse by both the caller and OSHA, and thus the system is corrupt. Corruption of any large government agency is inevitable, and common sense solutions are being avoided for political reasons alone. This study is a heap of bureaucratic palaver by people who are not seriously engaged in their stated mission.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (11/5/2015, 10:45 AM)

Actually, in some parts of Canada they do hold individual workers responsible too...in Alberta (my jurisdiction) it is the case and it has spurred a bit better compliance in our company. It also sounds like the study caught what seems to be the norm...if someone will change, then the first inspection that get a citation will be a big motivator....for the recalcitrant, it will be one of many and nothing will change (they don't care). I know OSHA is different and that workplace inspections in general could be improved...but I'm not about to dismiss this study out of hand.

Comment from Robert Munn, (11/5/2015, 1:55 PM)

You in Canada have not yet abandoned common sense to the political agenda of both unions and big government statists.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (11/6/2015, 8:51 AM)

Where I am a worker was fired a couple of years ago for bypassing safety devices and injuring another employee.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (11/9/2015, 11:07 AM)

Robert, I wouldn't say we've abandoned it....but we've been flirting with giving it a sabbatical in some cases. Seems to get a lot of vacation and sick days sometimes ;) Tom, too bad someone got hurt, but at least they got rid of the unsafe employee.

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