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Workers’ Risk Underestimation and Occupational Health and Safety Regulation

  • Drakopoulos, Stavros A.
  • Theodossiou, Ioannis

The standard treatment of occupational risk in the labour market is conducted in terms of the theory of compensating wage differentials, the basic characteristic of which is that workers can fully estimate actual occupational risks. However, research in cognitive psychology, and recent advances in economic psychology, suggest that individuals consistently underestimate risks associated with accidents. In this paper, we discuss the case when the workers systematically underestimate job risks. After presenting the standard treatment of occupational risks, and of health and safety at work regulation, we then proceed to incorporate the idea of job risk underestimation. The paper discusses the types and impact of regulation on health and safety effort in a simple framework in which workers’ beliefs concerning accident risks also play a role. The paper shows that a particular type of regulatory intervention is necessary for the risk underestimating workers not to suffer a welfare loss.

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File URL: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/29643/1/MPRA_paper_29643.pdf
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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 29643.

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Date of creation: Mar 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:29643
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  1. 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.
  2. Ose, Solveig Osborg, 2005. "Working conditions, compensation and absenteeism," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 161-188, January.
  3. François Salanié & Nicolas Treich, 2009. "Regulation in Happyville," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(537), pages 665-679, 04.
  4. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  5. Cantor, Richard, 1987. "Long-term contracts, consumption smoothing and wage-profit dynamics," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 59-70.
  6. Biddle, Jeff E & Zarkin, Gary A, 1988. "Worker Preferences and Market Compensation for Job Risk," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(4), pages 660-67, November.
  7. Besley, Timothy, 1988. "A simple model for merit good arguments," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 371-383, April.
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