Evaluation of DOSH Effectiveness

SHARP evaluates effect of DOSH enforcement and consultation activities on compensable workers' compensation claims rates

The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) dedicates a significant portion of its resources to enforcement inspections and to offering consultation services to employers requesting help to correct potential hazards.

To gauge the effect of these programs, the Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) program used L&I data to examine the association between Washington State Division of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH) activities and compensable claims rates. Two studies were completed in 2001 and 2003, and both showed that DOSH enforcement inspections were associated with a decline in claims rates relative to those businesses that had no DOSH visits. No statistically significant change was found among businesses receiving only consultation visits during the same evaluation periods.

In a continuing effort to evaluate the potential effect of the DOSH program on serious workplace injuries, a new analysis examined whether a similar decline in compensable claims rates occurred amongst a new group of businesses receiving DOSH visits in 2004. The results from this analysis were similar to those of the previous two reports, which showed that DOSH enforcement activity was followed by a decrease in compensable claims rates.

Major results

For the most recent study, we selected only those businesses that were State Fund-insured, single-location businesses reporting at least 5 full-time-equivalent (FTE) workers per year and having greater than zero workers in every quarter during State Fiscal Years (SFY) 2002–2005 and who had no prior DOSH activity during SFY 2002–2003. This group represented 6.2% of the 262,672 identified businesses during SFY 2002–2005.

We then compared the change in claims rate from 2004 to 2005 among businesses having DOSH activity in 2004 to those without DOSH activity. To examine whether the effect of DOSH activity on compensable claims rates differed between small and large businesses, we broke out our results by three size categories: 5–24 FTEs, 25–49 FTEs and 50 or more FTEs. We also separated businesses in "non-fixed-site" industries, such as construction and transportation, from those in "fixed-site" industries.

The results of the analysis on the 2004 group of DOSH-visited businesses were similar to the main findings of the 2001 and 2003 reports:

  • Among fixed-industry businesses, as compared to non-DOSH-visited businesses, enforcement inspections were followed by a 16.3% greater decline in compensable claims rates from SFY 2004 to SFY 2005 after adjusting for average business size and compensable claims rates in the pre-study period. The decrease in compensable claims rates was more evident among businesses with 5-24 FTEs (−31.5%) and among those with at least 50 FTEs (−15.9%), although the latter result was not statistically significant.
  • Among non-fixed-industry businesses, as compared to non-DOSH-visited businesses, enforcement inspections were followed by a 9.2% greater decline in compensable claims rates, although this was not statistically significant. The drop in compensable claims rates was more evident among businesses with 25–49 FTEs (−17.8%) and those with at least 50 FTEs (−13.6%).
  • DOSH consultation visits were associated with a greater increase in compensable claims rates for both fixed-industry and non-fixed-industry businesses. However, there were insufficient numbers of consultations among the studied businesses to determine the significance of this result.

Conclusions

While the relationship between DOSH enforcement activity and decreasing claims rates identified in this study confirm the results found in two prior SHARP studies, they do not yet provide sufficient evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship. To prove this link it would be necessary to demonstrate exactly how the enforcement activity led to the claims rate decrease. Our results suggest, but do not prove, that the threat of penalty does influence future claims rates. Data on hazard abatement following DOSH activity would provide useful insights into changes in the workplace that lead to reductions in claims. Such information is now being collected and should be useful in future studies.

A chart showing the percentage change in compensable claims rates by DOSH activity between 2004 and 2005. DOSH enforcement activity tended to decrease the percent of change in compensable claim rates while DOSH consultations tended to increase the percent of change in compensable claim rates. These studies do not yet provide sufficient evidence for a cause-and-effect relationship.

* Compared to sites that had no DOSH activity (the symbol Arrow pointing down. indicates result is statistically significant); results adjusted for average size of business and compensable claims rates two years before the study period.

Read the executive summary of The Effect of DOSH Enforcement Inspections and Consultation Visits on the Compensable Claims Rates in Washington State, 2004-2005 (43 KB PDF) (report number 70‑3‑2006). Contact SHARP for the entire technical report.

For further information regarding this study, call the SHARP Program at 1‑888‑667‑4277.

See SHARP's Publications page for executive summaries of the earlier studies referenced above and for other research reports and educational materials.

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