Do Workplace Safety Measures Protect Workers or Benefit Employers?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly three million Americans were injured in the workplace in 2020, and more than 4,700 died on the job. Those numbers were down from 2019, due in significant part to the COVID pandemic, but still indicate how dangerous the workplace can be in the United States.
Fortunately, there are comprehensive laws and regulations in place to promote safety in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which monitors and enforces workplace safety regulations in the United States. Though OSHA regulations are ostensibly intended to protect workers from unreasonable risks on the job, they also provide benefits to employers. So who benefits most?
The Purpose of Workplace Safety Regulations
The Occupational Safety and Health Act was enacted for the express purpose of fostering a safe and healthy work environment for employees across the country. One of its primary goals is to minimize the risk of injury to workers and visitors at a jobsite. The aims of most workplace safety measures are first and foremost to ensure that all workers have at least minimal protection from workplace hazards and to make health and well-being top priorities.
How Workplace Safety Regulations Benefit Workers
The guidelines established and enforced by OSHA provide a mechanism by which workers can use the power of the federal government to force employers to take reasonable steps to promote job safety. OSHA creates specific standards for jobsite safety and routinely inspects work environments for compliance. In addition, OSHA responds to complaints filed by workers, investigating those allegations and providing training, information, and assistance to workers who have concerns about workplace safety.
How Does Enforcement of Workplace Safety Measures Protect Employers?
OSHA regulations and other workplace safety measures provide significant benefits to employers:
- Reduced risk of injury or illness, thereby minimizing lost production, as well as potential costs of workers’ compensation insurance or claims
- Reduced risk of absenteeism and turnover, lowering overhead costs and alleviating the potential for lost productivity
- Stability and consistency within the workforce, leading to higher product quality and consistency
- Improved employee morale, typically tied to higher productivity, lower turnover, and reduced overhead costs
According to studies conducted by OSHA, companies that promote effective workplace safety programs typically spend 20 to 40 percent less on expenses related to injury and illness in the workplace. OSHA calculates that to equate to a $4-to-$6 savings for every dollar spent promoting workplace safety.
Workplace safety laws and regulations provide extensive benefits to both workers and employers, as well as anyone visiting a work environment. The provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, along with the regulations promulgated by OSHA, provide workers with assurances that employers must take reasonable steps to minimize the risk of workplace injury. OSHA also serves to monitor and enforce workplace safety and give workers a means of filing complaints about unsafe conditions.
The regulations administered by OSHA also offer benefits to employers, who typically experience lower costs relating to worker injury and illness, less loss of productivity, increased worker morale and stability, and higher product quality. For the most part, it appears that workplace safety laws and regulations have brought about a win-win situation, with employers and workers both benefiting significantly.