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The Impact of Occupational Safety and Health Regulation


  • W. Kip Viscusi


Occupational health and safety regulation imposes on enterprises an expected penalty that is positively related to the presence of unsafe working conditions for firms not in compliance with the standards. Higher expected penalties will increase enterprises' investment in work quality inputs, which in turn will lead workers to reduce their safety-enhancing actions. Low and moderate expected penalty levels increase health and safety, whereas very severe penalties may have a counterproductive effect. Present OSHA penalty levels are too low to create an effective financial incentive. The analysis of pooled time series and cross section data on industry health and safety investments and injury rates for the 1972-1975 period failed to indicate any significant OSHA impact for the data set analyzed.

Suggested Citation

  • W. Kip Viscusi, 1979. "The Impact of Occupational Safety and Health Regulation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 10(1), pages 117-140, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:rje:bellje:v:10:y:1979:i:spring:p:117-140

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edwin Mansfield & John Rapoport & Anthony Romeo & Samuel Wagner & George Beardsley, 1977. "Social and Private Rates of Return from Industrial Innovations," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 91(2), pages 221-240.
    2. Mansfield, Edwin, 1980. "Basic Research and Productivity Increase in Manufacturing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 70(5), pages 863-873, December.
    3. Berndt, Ernst R & Christensen, Laurits R, 1974. "Testing for the Existence of a Consistent Aggregate Index of Labor Inputs," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(3), pages 391-404, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Earnhart, Dietrich, 2004. "Regulatory factors shaping environmental performance at publicly-owned treatment plants," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 655-681, July.
    2. Alejandro Donado, 2015. "Why Do Unionized Workers Have More Nonfatal Occupational Injuries?," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 68(1), pages 153-183, January.
    3. Gray, Wayne B & Jones, Carol Adaire, 1991. "Are OSHA Health Inspections Effective? A Longitudinal Study in the Manufacturing Sector," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 73(3), pages 504-508, August.
    4. Christine Jolls, 2007. "Employment Law and the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 13230, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Paul Lanoie & Louis Trottier, 1995. "Costs and Benefits of Preventing Workplace Accidents : Going from a Mechanical to a Manual Handling System," CIRANO Working Papers 95s-45, CIRANO.
    6. Barkume, Anthony J & Ruser, John W, 2001. "Deregulating Property-Casualty Insurance Pricing: The Case of Workers' Compensation," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 44(1), pages 37-63, April.
    7. Lee, Jungmin & Lee, Yong-Kwan, 2016. "Can working hour reduction save workers?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 25-36.
    8. Alm, James & Shimshack, Jay, 2014. "Environmental Enforcement and Compliance: Lessons from Pollution, Safety, and Tax Settings," Foundations and Trends(R) in Microeconomics, now publishers, vol. 10(4), pages 209-274, December.
    9. Liu, Quanlong & Li, Xinchun & Qiao, Wanguan & Meng, Xianfei & Li, Xiangong & Shi, Tian, 2017. "Analysis of embedded non-safety regulation games in China's two types of coal mines through safety performance disparity, 1980–2014," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 51(C), pages 265-271.
    10. Eric Helland, 1998. "The Enforcement Of Pollution Control Laws: Inspections, Violations, And Self-Reporting," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 80(1), pages 141-153, February.
    11. Wayne B. Gray, 1984. "The Impact of OSHA and EPA Regulation on Productivity," NBER Working Papers 1405, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Paul Lanoie & David StréLiski, 1995. "L'impact de la réglementation en matière de santé et sécurité du travail sur le risque d'accidents au Québec : de nouveaux résultats," CIRANO Working Papers 95s-30, CIRANO.
    13. Wayne Gray & John T. Scholz, 1989. "A Behavioral Approach to Compliance: OSHA Enforcement's Impact on Workplace Accidents," NBER Working Papers 2813, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Wayne B. Gray & John Mendeloff, 2002. "The Declining Effects of OSHA Inspections on Manufacturing Injuries: 1979 to 1998," NBER Working Papers 9119, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. McCarthy, Patrick & Talley, Wayne K., 1999. "Evidence on risk compensation and safety behaviour," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 91-96, January.
    16. Avner Ben-Ner & Yong-Seung Park, "undated". "Duration of Non-Work Spells in the Workers' Compensation Insurance System: Unionized vs. Non-Unionized Workers," Working Papers 1202, Human Resources and Labor Studies, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities Campus).
    17. Bande, Roberto & López-Mourelo, Elva, 2014. "The spatial distribution of workplace accidents in Spain: assessing the role of workplace inspections," MPRA Paper 56767, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. McCannon, Bryan C., 2009. "Do less-violent technologies result in less violence? A theoretical investigation applied to the use of tasers by law enforcement," Economics Discussion Papers 2009-36, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).

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