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A Behavioral Approach to Compliance: OSHA Enforcement's Impact on Workplace Accidents

  • Wayne Gray
  • John T. Scholz

This study test for effects of OSHA enforcement, using data on injuries and OSHA inspections for 6,842 manufacturing plants between 1979 and 1985. We use measures of general deterrence (expected inspections at plants like this one) and specific deterrence (actual inspections at this plant). Both measures of deterrence are found to affect accidents, with a 10% increase in inspections with penalties predicted to reduce accidents by 2%. The existence of specific deterrence effects, the importance of lagged effects, the asymmetrical effects of probability and amount of penalty on accidents, and the tendency of injury rates to self-correct over a few years support a behavioral model of the firm's response to enforcement rather than the traditional expected penalty' model of deterrence theory.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w2813.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2813.

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Date of creation: Jan 1989
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Publication status: published as John T. Scholz and Wayne B. Gray, "OSHA Enforcement and Workplace Injuries: A Behavioral Approach to Risk Assessment," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 283-305, September 1990.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2813
Note: LS
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  1. 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.
  2. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1973. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 521-65, May-June.
  3. Robert Stewart Smith, 1979. "The Impact of OSHA Inspections on Manufacturing Injury Rates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(2), pages 145-170.
  4. Paul C. Stern, 1986. "Blind spots in policy analysis: What economics doesn't say about energy use," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 5(2), pages 200-227.
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