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Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries with No Detectable Job Loss

May 2012

David Levine, Michael Toffel, Matthew Johnson


This randomized experiment analyzes the effect of Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) inspectors. The experiment compared workplaces that were randomly selected for inspection to workplaces that were eligible, but unpicked for inspection. Those workplaces that were inspected experienced a 9.4% reduction in injury rates, a 26% reduction in injury costs, and no significant differences in employment, sales rates, or business survival.

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Policy Implications

The experiment strongly supports OSHA inspections. Firms that went through inspections were, on average, much safer, and thus endured significantly lower injury-related costs. Further, no adverse effects were created by the inspections. Inspecting more businesses may lead to significantly lower injuries and save businesses significant money.

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