Consultation and Enforcement

Objective

The objective of this project is to answer the following questions:

  1. What impact did enforcement inspections and consultation visits have on claims incidence rates? 
  2. Did the impact differ by type of injury?
  3. Was there any evidence for enforcement inspections that result in citations having a greater impact than that of enforcement inspection without citations?
  4. What was the impact of enforcement inspections and consultation visits on claims costs?

Public health importance

In the four decades since the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHAct) was passed in the United States the basic set of tools with which it has been enforced has changed very little. Under its provisions the state agencies authorized to administer the program, are empowered to formulate specific regulations relating to health and safety, to enforce compliance with these rules through inspections and financial penalties, and to offer voluntary compliance assistance to employers requesting it, with the goal of preventing injuries and illnesses. In this project, we examine changes in workers’ compensation claims rates and costs for Washington employers having either an inspection, with or without citation, or a voluntary consultation activity.

The burden of occupational injury and illness in Washington state

Work-related injuries and illnesses impose a substantial economic and social burden on the citizens of Washington State. In State Fiscal Year 2015, the State Fund workers’ compensation system paid out over $1.5 billion in benefits to cover medical costs, wage replacement, and pensions to injured workers. This figure does not include payments by self-insured employers to cover costs for their workers’ compensation claims. Nor does it include the indirect costs of work-related injuries, which include loss of production and costs to recruit and train replacement workers. There is also the uncompensated burden of injury represented by injured workers’ long-term loss of earning power and the burdens borne by their families. Finally, these estimates do not include losses from unreported injuries and illnesses.

Effectiveness

There is a growing body of evidence that regulatory interventions can be effective at improving occupational health and safety outcomes. Examples include the introduction of new OHS legislation, general and specific deterrence of inspections and penalties, inspection sequence, consultative activities, and awareness campaigns. A recent systematic review (Tompa et al, 2016) found strong evidence that inspections with penalties result in a decrease in injuries at the inspected establishment.

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