It will not come as much of a surprise to Michigan residents, but independent investigators have determined that random workplace safety inspections do create a safer work environment and can lead to fewer workers' compensation claims.
Inspections are usually conducted by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration or by state agencies it has approved. In the past, it was difficult to determine whether or not safety inspections helped keep safety a priority at companies because businesses had weeks of warning time to prepare for the visit. Using data from a state agency, the investigators concluded that the safety measures were heightened and maintained if the visit was unknown and thought to occur at any time.
Those in favor of the random inspections believe there will be benefits across the board. Workers will benefit because safety measures will be tightened, workplaces will become safer and less workplace injuries will occur. Companies will benefit because they will receive better safety scores, which will improve business as well as employee morale. Finally, safety inspectors will see improvements on accident reports, as well as a stronger knowledge of and adherence to safety regulations.
The state agency that supplied that data conducts some of its inspections at random. Because of this, the investigators believe they were able to get an objective view of how the scheduled inspections skewed accurate results. Surveying companies at random created a typical "placebo" method of controls and allowed researchers to have an accurate picture of whether or not the inspections were doing their job.
The investigators believe the random inspections are doing what they intended--permitting agencies to gather important safety information, while still allowing workplaces to function as usual. It seems to be a win-win for everyone.
Source: Science Now, "It's Official: Random Inspections Improve Workplace Safety," Elizabeth Norton, May 17, 2012