Evaluation of DOSH Effectiveness 1999-2008

Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) — Research for Safe Work

SHARP evaluates the effect of DOSH enforcement and consultation activities on compensable claims rates over ten-year period

The Washington State Department of Labor Industries (L&I) houses the state’s OSHA program and has the responsibility to conduct enforcement inspections and to offer consultation services to employers requesting help to correct potential hazards.

To gauge the effect of these programs on an annual basis, the Safety & Health Assessment & Research for Prevention (SHARP) program has used workers’ compensation claims data to examine the association between Washington State Division of Occupational Safety & Health (DOSH) activities and compensable claims rates. Ten annual studies were completed between 2001 and 2010, showing that, in most years, DOSH enforcement inspections were associated with a decline in compensable claims rates relative to those businesses that had no DOSH visits. For businesses receiving only consultation visits during the same evaluation periods, we found significant declines in claims only in a few years. However, for both enforcement and consultation activities, we found the number of eligible DOSH activities was simply too small to be able to separate the impact of the DOSH visit from the random year-to-year variation in claims rates.

To overcome this limitation we pooled data from all 10 annual studies into one analysis. With this much larger set of DOSH visits, covering inspections and consultations from 1999 through 2008, we were able to estimate the impact of DOSH visits with greater statistical confidence. We were also able to answer more specific questions such as: 1) does the impact of the DOSH activity differ for industries such as construction; 2) does DOSH activity reduce certain kinds of injuries more than others; 3) do citations make a difference; and 4) is there an impact following consultation visits?

The results from this analysis provide strong evidence that DOSH enforcement and consultation activity is followed by a decrease in compensable claims rates.


For each annual study in the pool, we selected only those businesses that were State Fund-insured, single-location businesses reporting at least 10 full‑time‑equivalent (FTE) workers per year and employing workers in every quarter during the study period of 4 years. Selected businesses had no prior DOSH activity for 2 years prior to the DOSH visit being evaluated.

We then compared the change in claims rate from the year of the visit to the following year between businesses having DOSH activity to those without DOSH activity. To examine whether the effect of DOSH activity on compensable claims rates differed by industry type, businesses in "non‑fixed‑site" industries, such as construction and transportation, were examined separately from those in "fixed‑site" industries.


Enforcement Effect on Compensable Claims Rate

Enforcement inspections at fixed-site businesses were followed by a 4.3% greater decline in compensable claims rates than at non-visited businesses. Among non-fixed site businesses, such as construction, there was a 3.1% greater decline in compensable claims rates than at non-visited businesses.

Enforcement Effect on non-MSD Compensable Claims Rate

When we exclude musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) for which there is no regulatory standard, there was a 7.4% greater decline in compensable claims rates at DOSH enforcement-visited fixed-site businesses than at non-visited businesses. Among non-fixed site businesses, there was a 2.4% greater decline in compensable claims rates at DOSH enforcement-visited businesses.

Effect of Citations on non-MSD Compensable Claims Rate

The impact of citations for violations of standards was even more dramatic (see chart below): compensable claims rates for non-MSDs fell approximately 16% more at DOSH enforcement visited businesses where citations were issued than they did at businesses where DOSH enforcement did not result in citations.

Effect of Consultations on Compensable Claims Rate

DOSH consultation visits were also associated with a greater decrease in compensable claims rates for both fixed‑industry and non‑fixed‑industry businesses. Once again compensable claims for non-musculoskeletal disorders fell more following DOSH consultation visits than at non-visited sites.

A chart showing the percentage change in time-loss claims arising from injuries other than musculoskeletal disorders from the year of the DOSH enforcement visit to the year after. Data covers visits from 1999 through 2008 at establishments with more than 10 FTEs. Results are broken out by fixed-site industry and non-fixed site industry. Within these categories, the results show that establishments which had an enforcement visit resulting in a citation showed a 16% greater decrease than did those visited but without citation, and about a 20% greater decrease than at establishments not visited by DOSH.

* The double asterisk symbol (**) in the above graph indicates result is statistically significant; results adjusted for size of business and compensable claims rate history.


The results indicate that DOSH activity, especially when accompanied by the threat of penalty, is followed by a reduction in claims and their associated costs. The relationship between DOSH activity and decreasing claims rates confirm the results found in the annual SHARP studies, while allowing for both greater statistical precision and for more detailed breakouts by type of visit and injury type.

Read the executive summary of The Effect of DOSH Enforcement and Consultation Activity on the Compensable Claims Rates in Washington State, 1999-2008 (report number 70-5-2011) (53 KB PDF).

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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