Panel: Testing the Cost-Effectiveness of Government Regulation to Improve Workplace Safety
(Employment & Training)

Friday, November 9, 2012: 9:45 AM-11:15 AM
Pratt B (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Frank Neuhauser, University of California, Berkeley
Moderators:  Nicolas R. Ziebarth, Cornell University
Chairs:  Ishita Sengupta, National Academy of Social Insurance

Government intervention in the workplace meant to improve occupational safety and health has been a controversial issue for both the right and the left. Workers' compensation insurance, adopted universally in the early 20th century replaced private litigation with a heavily regulated insurance product. An important component of the insurance regulation was the requirement for and design of experience rating for employers. The 1970s saw the creation of the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA regulations are a source of constant concern by the right over costly government intrusion and the left for not being broad enough or levying sufficient penalties. The 21st century and current democratic control of the executive branch has introduced new hope for some and concern for others about the direction of workplace regulation, particularly by OSHA. Much of the controversy arises because the question of expanding or contracting regulation rests on evidence about the cost-effectiveness of regulatory interventions that has been lacking. This panel explores four different research effort on workplace safety interventions commissioned by state governments to address the effectiveness of interventions. These evaluations involve new methodological approaches, new data resources, and/or new collaborations across agencies. One paper explores the impact of experience rating employers on workplace safety, to answer the question of whether states should increase or decrease the reach and degree of experience rating. A second paper examines how effective OSHA inspections are at improving safety and whether any safety gains are offset by economic costs imposed on employers. The third presentation explores whether new employers signal greater occupational safety problems, potentially requiring increased targeting by OSHA and state regulators. The fourth study addresses the critical question of whether regulations requiring establishments to have written illness and injury prevention programs, a regulation currently being reviewed for adoption by OSHA, are effective at improving safety. Together these papers examine different interventions in different environments using a variety of rigorous analytics to reach important conclusions about which policy initiatives are cost-effective for governments to pursue in an era of severe resource constraints and economic stresses on both employers and workers.

Experience Rating Worker's Compensation Insurance: Measuring the Safety Impact
Frank Neuhauser, University of California, Berkeley

Is Occupational Injury Risk Higher At New Firms?
Seth A. Seabury, RAND Corporation

Injury & Illness Prevention Programs: Deconstructing the Impact On Occupational Safety
John Mendeloff, University of Pittsburgh; RAND Corporation

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