About the Study
The mission of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to ensure safe and healthy conditions for workers. Previous research suggests that OSHA inspections can reduce the risks workers face. But for inspections to work as intended, OSHA needs employers to respond promptly when workplace inspections reveal unsafe conditions.
As part of the Department of Labor Behavioral Interventions (DOL-BI) project, the Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) partnered with OSHA to pilot test whether a limited set of changes to the citation process could lead more employers to respond to OSHA after receiving a health and safety citation and reduce the number of employers referred to debt collection. The study includes a nationwide randomized controlled trial in two phases to test the effect of the changes, and results indicate statistically significant improvements.
The DOL-BI project explores the use of behavioral insights to improve the performance and outcomes of DOL programs. It is sponsored by the DOL Chief Evaluation Office and draws on insights from behavioral economics, psychology, and related fields.
Would employers who were cited for health and safety violations be more responsive - and ultimately more likely to resolve citations and avoid debt collections - if OSHA changed the way it issues and follows up on citations?
- Changes to OSHA’s citation process informed by behavioral science increased employers’ rate of response to citations by 3.9 percentage points in Phase 1 and 5.4 percentage points in Phase 2.
- In Phase 2, employers under the new process were 4.4 percentage points less likely to be referred to the national office for debt collection.
- The changes tested did not cause an increase in employers correcting all violations. Researchers found no impacts on the share of employers in either Phase 1 or Phase 2 that confirmed with OSHA that they had fixed all of the violations noted in their citations.
The Department of Labor’s (DOL) Chief Evaluation Office (CEO) sponsors independent evaluations and research, primarily conducted by external, third-party contractors in accordance with the Department of Labor Evaluation Policy. CEO’s research development process includes extensive technical review at the design, data collection and analysis stage, including: external contractor review and OMB review and approval of data collection methods and instruments per the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), Institutional Review Board (IRB) review to ensure studies adhere to the highest ethical standards, review by academic peers (e.g., Technical Working Groups), and inputs from relevant DOL agency and program officials and CEO technical staff. Final reports undergo an additional independent expert technical review and a review for Section 508 compliance prior to publication. The resulting reports represent findings from this independent research and do not represent DOL positions or policies.