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The Declining Effects of OSHA Inspections on Manufacturing Injuries: 1979 to 1998

  • Wayne B. Gray
  • John Mendeloff

This study compares the impact of OSHA inspections on manufacturing industries using data from three time periods: 1979-85, 1987-91, and 1992-98. We find substantial declines in the impact of OSHA inspections since 1979-85. In the earliest period we estimate that having an OSHA inspection that imposed a penalty reduces injuries by about 15%; in the later periods it falls to 8% in 1987-91 and to 1% (and statistically insignificant) in 1992-98. Testing for different effects by inspection type, employment size, and industry, we find differences across size classes, but these cannot explain the overall decline. In fact, we find reductions in OSHA's impact over time for nearly all subgroups we examine, so shifts across subgroups cannot explain the whole decline. We examine various other hypotheses concerning the declining impact, but in the end we are not able to provide a clear explanation for the decline.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9119.

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Date of creation: Aug 2002
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Gray, Wayne B. and John M. Mendeloff. "The Declining Effects Of OSHA Inspections On Manufacturing Injuries, 1979 To 1998," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 2004, v57(4,Jul), 571-587.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9119
Note: LS PR
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  1. Ruser, John W & Smith, Robert S, 1988. " The Effect of OSHA Records-Check Inspections on Reported Occupational Injuries in Manufacturing Establishments," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 1(4), pages 415-35, December.
  2. David Weil, 2001. "Assessing OSHA Performance: New Evidence from the Construction Industry," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(4), pages 651-674.
  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. Bartel, Ann P & Thomas, Lacy Glenn, 1985. "Direct and Indirect Effects of Regulation: A New Look at OSHA's Impact," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 28(1), pages 1-25, April.
  5. 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.
  6. Scholz, John T & Gray, Wayne B, 1990. " OSHA Enforcement and Workplace Injuries: A Behavioral Approach to Risk Assessment," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 283-305, September.
  7. 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 504-08, August.
  8. David P. McCaffrey, 1983. "An Assessment of Osha's Recent Effects on Injury Rates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(1), pages 131-146.
  9. Chamberlain, Gary, 1982. "Multivariate regression models for panel data," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 5-46, January.
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