Worker Safety: Is Government Helpful?


Not too much, Bryan Caplan concludes, studying the numbers from Kip Viscusi's article on "job safety" in the Concise Encyclopedia of Economics:

Annual OSHA penalties for safety violations (2002): $149,000,000

Annual Workers Compensation Premiums (2001): $26,000,000,000

Estimated Annual Wage Premiums for Risky Activities (2004 dollars): $245,000,000,000

His point: Market incentives for worker safety dwarf legal incentives, which in turn dwarf regulatory incentives. The level of safety we see in the workplace today is about the same as the level we'd see if government just looked the other way.

For a look at the "cost" side of any cost-benefit analysis of OSHA-style workplace regulations, from our Aug/Sept 2001 issue, James De Long on "how New Deal-era regulations stifle flexible work arrangements."