Washington Study Finds Workplace Inspections Improve Safety, Save Money

A decade’s worth of inspection data in Washington suggests that a visit from the Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) can be good not just for workplace safety, but also for a company’s bottom line.

Researchers with the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) program, L&I's research unit, examined L&I inspection data and workers' compensation claims from 1998 through 2008. The study found significant reductions in claims and claim costs following a safety inspection or safety consultation.

The greatest impact came when an inspection resulted in at least one citation. In those cases, the research found a reduction in worker injury claims of as much as 20 percent over similar work sites that were not inspected.

"Safety is not always at the forefront of an employer's mind. But when a significant event takes place, like a serious injury or an L&I inspection, it can really get their attention," said SHARP Director Barbara Silverstein. "This can lead to a greater recognition of what can be done in the workplace to reduce hazards, itself leading to safer workplaces and fewer injuries."

Silverstein and Michael Foley, senior economics research manager for SHARP, presented their findings at a quarterly meeting of OSHSPA, the Occupational Safety and Health State Plan Association, an organization of 27 states and territories that have their own agencies enforcing workplace safety rules, like L&I.

An executive summary of "The Impact of DOSH Enforcement and Consultation Visits on Workers' Compensation Claims Rates and Costs, 1999 – 2008" is on L&I's web site and copies of the full report are available by contacting SHARP at 888-667-4277.

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