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Shaming companies for safety violations gets results: Study

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2020 | Workplace Accidents |

When you go to work in Minnesota, your employer is obligated to provide a safe environment for you to do your job. Unfortunately, some ignore their obligations, putting workers at risk of a serious accident or injury. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates certain standards of workplace safety, and employers that do not follow OSHA regulations may be penalized or face hefty fines. Still, workers can face severe injuries before some companies are caught breaking the rules in an inspection. However, many companies are highly motivated to avoid bad publicity that could cost them contracts or customers.

Publicizing workplace safety violations

In 2009, OSHA instituted a policy of issuing a press release whenever severe workplace safety violations were found. Specifically, the companies involved must have faced a fine of at least $40,000 for their breaches of federal regulations. These press releases were meant, in the words of one OSHA administrator, to serve as a “regulation of shaming.” By publicizing the violations, OSHA hoped to inspire companies to improve their work environments, leading to fewer workplace accidents and injuries. Specifically, other companies would want to promote their own workplaces as safer, more reliable alternatives to skilled workers, customers and contractors.

Study indicates that public exposure works

According to one study conducted at Duke University, this system of public exposure and shaming works to decrease safety violations on the job. Researchers found that similar workplaces were 73% less likely to suffer similar violations within five kilometers of the initial work site. Even work sites up to 50 kilometers away showed a 30% reduction in workplace accidents and safety violations. The researcher found that it would take at least 210 in-person OSHA inspections to produce the same result as one widely distributed press release. These reductions didn’t just minimize breaches of regulations; workplace fatalities and serious injuries also declined.

Some companies continue to ignore their obligations to their workers and breach workplace safety rules, with dangerous and costly consequences for employees. A workers’ compensation lawyer may help injured clients protect their rights and pursue the benefits they deserve.