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OSHA chief on inspections, workplace injuries, company savings

When he says that "safety pays," OSHA chief David Michaels means it in more ways than one.

Speaking at a recent safety conference, Michaels drew attention to a Harvard Business School study that strongly concludes that random OSHA inspections of companies have a twofold salutary effect that stands in stark opposition to the claims made by many businesses that they are intrusive, time-consuming and costly for employers.

First, summary onsite inspections result subsequently in a work environment that is defined by far fewer construction accidents and workplace injuries. Second, they actually save inspected companies substantial amounts of money, given that improved safety brings about lower workers' compensation costs, fewer missed days by injured employees and an improved work product resulting from a more comfortable and confident work force.

In driving home his points, Michaels mentioned an excavation accident that came close to occurring last year in Mercer, Ohio. Within minutes of an OSHA inspector ordering workers to vacate an unshored trench, the trench collapsed. A similar incident also occurred last year in Alabama.

Michaels contrasted those outcomes with a fatal accident that occurred at a worksite in Cincinnati in 2007. In that incident, an employee at a worksite of an employer with a long-term problematic safety record was buried in a trench cave in.

Michaels strongly insists that enhanced safety will always improve the bottom line for a company.

"Safety does not just prevent injuries," he told the audience at the Safety 2012 conference. "It will save you money.

Source: EHS Today, "Safety 2012: OSHA's continuing mission," Sandy Smith, June 4, 2012

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