Scholars, government, and the public expect that legal enforcement should be an effective means to prevent a firm's future safety violation behavior in daily productions. However, the literature provides limited insights into whether safety regulation enforcement is effective in helping firms reduce future safety violations. Therefore, this study examines the relationship between occupational health and safety enforcement and a firm's future violation behavior. We carried out a regression analysis based on a panel sample of 2965 listed United States manufacturers with 4474 violation records issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. We find limited effectiveness of enforcement. Our results indicate that although past violation experiences are negatively correlated with subsequent repeat violations (violations of the same clause), they are positively correlated with non-repeat violations (violations of a different clause) and the number of overall violations (the sum of both). The factors that can reinforce effectiveness are also explored in this study. Our analyses show that the effectiveness of safety regulation enforcement is significantly enhanced when reinforced by stringent penalties and Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Series 18001 certifications. This study contributes to the literature on the operational safety and policy–operations interaction. We challenge conventional wisdom by proposing that regulatory pressures do not necessarily improve firms' overall social responsibility practices in terms of worker health and safety. We also discuss the implications of this for the occupational health and safety (OHS) management practice.
Bibliographical noteThis study was partly supported by the Start-up Fund for New Recruits from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (no. BE41). Andy Yeung was supported in part by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University under research grant no. 99QP.
- regression analysis
- secondary data
- Behavioral theory of the firm
- Management system
- Organizational learning
- Institutional theory