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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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  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2813
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Ehrlich, Isaac, 1973. "Participation in Illegitimate Activities: A Theoretical and Empirical Investigation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 521-565, May-June.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Wayne B. Gray & Carol Adaire Jones, 1989. "Longitudinal Patterns of Compliance with OSHA Health and Safety Regulations in the Manufacturing Sector," NBER Working Papers 3213, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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