Health and safety inspections with penalties effectively reduce work injuries

Labour Day an opportunity to highlight the effectiveness of regulatory enforcement in improving workplace health and safety

This is according to a systematic review of the research by the Institute for Work & Health (IWH). The review, led by IWH Senior Scientist Dr. Emile Tompa, was published online in June in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (doi 10.1002/ajim.22605).

These findings reinforce the importance of regulators being out in the field and identifying, citing and penalizing non-compliant organizations, says Tompa.

Tompa acknowledges that no regulator has the resources to inspect all workplaces and to levy penalties for all violations, making other measures also necessary. Regulators may need to heighten awareness by actively communicating the consequences of non-compliance, and possibly make information about non-compliers easily available to the general public, he adds.

The systematic review team set out to answer the question “What is the strength of the evidence on the effectiveness of occupational health and safety (OHS) policy levers in creating incentives for organizations to improve OHS processes and outcomes?” The team searched for English-language studies related to this question that were published in peer-reviewed journals between January 1990 and June 2013. In the end, 43 studies were rated of sufficient quality to be included in the review.

Besides finding strong evidence that inspections with penalties reduce work-related injuries, the team also found strong evidence that inspections without penalties do not reduce injuries. This further confirms that specific deterrence—inspections resulting in penalties—is much more effective than general deterrence—the possibility of being inspected, says IWH President Dr. Cam Mustard.

See the website of the Association of Workers' Compensation Boards of Canada for a French summary of this media release.

For more findings, see an earlier article on this study. 

About the Institute for Work & Health

IWH is an independent, not-for-profit research organization that aims to protect and improve the health of working people. Recognized as one of the top five occupational health and safety research centres in the world, the Institute provides practical and relevant findings on the prevention of work injury and disability to policy-makers, workers, employers, clinicians, and health, safety and disability management professionals.

Media contacts

Cindy Moser 
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Institute for Work & Health
416-927-2027, ext. 2183
705-872-1939 (cell)

Uyen Vu
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Institute for Work & Health
613-979-7742 (cell)