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Government inspections and fines lead to safer workplaces, researchers claim

September 7, 2016

Toronto – Government safety and health inspections that result in penalties for non-compliant employers encourage organizations to take action to reduce work-related injuries, according to research from the Institute for Work & Health.

IWH staff conducted a systematic review of research to answer the question: “What is the strength of the evidence on the effectiveness of occupational health and safety policy levers in creating incentives for organizations to improve OHS processes and outcomes?”

The researchers examined studies published in peer-reviewed journals from January 1990 to June 2013. Among nearly 12,000 citations from 13 literature databases, 43 studies were deemed “sufficient quality” for inclusion in the review, a press release from the institute states.

The review found “strong evidence” to support the theory that inspections resulting in penalties reduce occupational injuries and/or increase compliance with regulations.

“This further confirms that specific deterrence – inspections resulting in penalties – is much more effective than general deterrence – the possibility of being inspected,” IWH President Cam Mustard said in the press release. Regulatory agencies that lack the resources to inspect all establishments may need to raise awareness about the ramifications of non-compliance and publicize information about offenders, IWH Senior Scientist Emile Tompa said in the release.

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

The study was published online June 7 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.