The Power of Regulation

John Stossel has this chart to clearly define the power that is OSHA regulation:

Wow, that sure makes a big difference.  Which confirms my experience as a business owner.  Financial incentives like workers comp rates are a FAR more powerful force, at least in my business, to root our safety issues than the arcane and bureaucratic mandates that flow out of OSHA.


  1. jsalvati:

    What the heck happened in 1992?

  2. morganovich:

    alas, this is in many ways the optimal public policy from the point of view of the reps who want to be reelected.

    pass laws purported to solve a problem that is already solving itself, then take credit for the progress.

    classic case of misaligned incentives.

  3. morganovich:

    regarding 1992, i have no idea, but i'd be very curious to see if the methodology used to calculate the figure changed in that year.

    clinton changed a large number of such things (like CPI) early in his administration, and nearly all the changes resulted in lower figures.

  4. ADiff:

    1992.... William Jefferson Clinton was elected President of the United States.....
    1992..... NAFTA was signed....
    1992..... Clinton Administration begins effort to "end welfare as we know it" culminating in 1996 legislation....
    1992 also is about the time when the statistical impacts of major tax changes from 1990 (passed under President Bush, Sr.) would have begun showing up......
    1992.... A major economic 'boom' began with large increases in corporate profit rates (although artificially depressed until around 1995 by 'write-offs' of losses incurred in the late 80s) ....

    Also the 1990s saw some major changes in perceptions of corporate risk management, primarily resulting from some major issues in the area during the previous decade. See

    A lot was going on..... But I think there's enough just in a robust general expansion, major changes in tax laws and a changing view of the expected costs of liability, to explain the probably wasn't just one thing....but it's a safe bet it didn't have much to do with regulatory regimes!

  5. Bill:

    The post makes a good point, but the passage of OSHA probably at least in part made into law what was already becoming common but not required practice. Also, what about injuries of all types?

  6. Bob Smith:

    "The post makes a good point, but the passage of OSHA probably at least in part made into law what was already becoming common but not required practice."

    If that were true we would have seen a one-time dropoff in injury rates as non-compliant employers anted up. We don't see anything of the sort.

  7. Dr. T:

    You could draw a similar graph for hospital worker safety. Hospitals were not regulated by OSHA until 1986. OSHA's involvement did almost nothing to improve hospital worker safety. Most of the safety gains were due to new technologies such as self-sheathing needles, "safety" scalpels, better gloves, aggressive campaigns on the need for frequent hand washing, and better education about lifting and moving patients (a formerly frequent cause of back injuries among hospital workers).

  8. txjim:

    1992….. Clinton Administration begins effort to “end welfare as we know it” culminating in 1996 legislation….

    should read:

    1992….. Clinton Administration, despite campaining to “end welfare as we know it”, made no progress whatsoever. This failure was instrumental in ushering in the Republican Revolution in 94, culminating in 1996 legislation, which Clinton wisely signed….


  9. Henry Bowman:

    I'd just like to point out that John Stossel is not the originator of this rather informative graph. Charles Murray published a similar graph over a decade ago.

  10. A Friend:

    Guys, the workforce changed, and work changed. Chilean miners dying doesn't hit the tally.