Cover: Mandatory Workplace Safety and Health Programs

Mandatory Workplace Safety and Health Programs

Implementation, Effectiveness, and Benefit-Cost Trade-Offs

Published Nov 19, 2008

by Tom LaTourrette, John Mendeloff


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In 1998, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) began work on developing a standard that would have required all workplaces to establish a safety and health program, which uses management tools that address general behaviors and procedures to reduce the risk of occupational injuries and illnesses. Although some states already had such programs in place, OSHA argued that worksites with such programs had lower rates of injury and illness and that a federal standard would extend this benefit to worksites without such programs. By 1999, however, OSHA had abandoned its rulemaking process, partly due to intense criticism of the effectiveness relative to the cost of the proposed standard. Prior studies have attempted to analyze whether, if implemented, the standard would have been effective in its goals and whether the benefit-cost trade-offs would have leaned in favor of one or the other. Unfortunately, these studies have been inconclusive for a variety of reasons. This report takes an objective approach to assessing both the proposed OSHA standard and prior studies of its potential effectiveness, implementation and enforcement, and benefits and costs, concluding with recommendations to guide further analysis should federal or state authorities opt to revisit the rulemaking process for such a standard.

The research in this report was sponsored by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and conducted by the RAND Center for Health and Safety in the Workplace.

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