The Effects of OSHA Enforcement: Analysis of a Large Sample of Randomized Inspections

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Description: Since its inception in 1970, inspections have been the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA)’s primary tool to enforce federal safety and health regulations and to promote safe workplace practices. For just as long, a heated debate has persisted regarding the effects of these inspections and of OSHA’s regulations more broadly. While some claim OSHA destroys jobs without meaningfully improving workplace safety, others argue inspections save lives at low costs to employers and employees. Still others posit that inspections have little effect and waste taxpayer dollars. In the current study, we propose to evaluate OSHA’s largest non-construction intervention—Site Specific Targeting (SST)—which targets some of the most hazardous workplace in the country for enforcement inspections. SST uses random assignment to allocate inspections, allowing us to analyze inspection effectiveness as with a randomized trial. Among establishments eligible for a randomized inspection, we will test whether being randomly chosen for an SST inspection reduces an establishment’s subsequent injury rates and improves compliance with OSHA regulations.

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