Employers choose production over safety when business is good, Yale researcher says
New Haven, CT — When demand is high and profits are up, many employers look to increase production rather than invest in safety, a recent study led by a Yale University researcher suggests.
Using data from the U.S. mining industry, the research team found that when the price of the mineral being mined increased 1%, serious injuries and fatalities rose 0.15% and safety and health violations increased 0.13%.
Demand for a product plays a significant role, lead study author Kerwin K. Charles, dean of the School of Management and professor of economics, policy and management at Yale, said in an article published online Jan. 2 in Yale Insights. Many of the safety violations were determined to be willful or negligent, the article notes.
Charles told Yale Insights: When demand is high, “I’ve got money in my pocket. I can buy a fan. I can buy a safer drill press. But here’s a second thing that’s going to happen: I’ll think, I’d better make hay while the sun is shining. When times are good, I should produce more. That means work my workers harder. That means work on the weekends. That safety training? Let’s put it off.”
The researchers also found that, for large conglomerates mining multiple minerals, a boost in revenue for one part of the company can lead to fewer injuries in other parts of the company.
“A mine that doesn’t itself have high demand but is benefiting from high demand at a sister mine, injuries on the job go down,” Charles told Yale Insights. He said that more financial resources, “in isolation,” can boost safety.
The study was published in October in the National Bureau of Economic Research.