Random Workplace Inspections Improve Safety New Study Finds

A new study finds that the thought of random inspections increases the company’s safety statistics.


The online journal Science released the results of the study, which is startling when in comparison to having scheduled inspections. Previously, studies have been performed to make decisions based on government regulations protecting their workers, or companies leading to bankruptcy as a result of improper safety regulations; though most of the results were biased in one way or another. Now with this newest study, it is providing more objective surveys.


The study’s results showed that companies who were told they could receive random inspections in the workplace had employees giving more attention to their safety precautions overall, without the excessive expense or loss of jobs.


The inspections in question are performed by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the same organization that sets the standards in the first place. OSHA is responsible for coming up with proper safety practices, guidelines and standards for the workplace, in relation to their industry. For this reason, they are the best organization to perform these random inspections.


Michael Toffel, who works in environmental management at Harvard Business School, mentioned it’s almost impossible to perform random inspections and remain unbiased. He said they tend to have random inspections at companies where accidents are more common or for those where employees have filed complaints about working in unsafe working environments. From this knowledge, some experts believe the statistics are slightly biased, and partly to blame for the major reduction in work-related injuries. Toffel also thinks companies are being forced to keep better records, as these random inspections are going to be looking at documentation of worker injuries as well.


“Our study suggests that randomized inspections work as they’re meant to, improving safety while not undermining the company’s ability to do business,” says Toffel. “Now we’d like to get more data to see exactly how inspections reduce injuries, and to investigate what kinds of companies would get the most or least benefit from safety regulation,” Toffel explained.


Among the results from the study, came the following statistics:


  • Companies receiving random inspections had approximately 9 percent less workplace injuries.
  • The cost of the reported injuries and medical equipment used, dropped by 26 percent.
  • In California, where there are a lot of high-hazard industries, companies saved approximately $355,000 in claims and compensation. In the nation, about $6 billion is expected to be saved by random inspections.
  • Random inspections had no effect on earnings, sales, employment, or whether or not the company survived.


Admittedly, some of these random inspections, are indeed random, and have nothing to do with what companies have had the most accidents in the past. This provides more objective results, which the authors believe to be quite accurate. The results showed companies with random inspections went on to have fewer accidents than those who did not receive these inspections.


 A total of eight years were recorded in the study for these companies; four years of workers’ compensation claims before the random inspection, and four years of claims after the inspection. The results clearly showed fewer claims in the four years following the random inspections performed by OSHA.


The new study was co-authored by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Toffel, Professor David Levine of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, and Matthew Johnson, a Boston University doctoral student at the time.