Discussion paper

Scand J Work Environ Health 2010;36(4):319-324    pdf

doi:10.5271/sjweh.3048

Economic incentives as a policy tool to promote safety and health at work

by Kankaanpää E

Incentives are regarded as a promising policy tool for promoting occupational safety and health (OSH). This article discusses the potential of different kinds of incentives in light of economic theory and evidence from research. When incentives are used as a policy tool, it implies the existance of an institution that has both the interest and the power to apply incentives to stakeholders, usually to employers. Governments can subsidize employers’ investments in OSH with subsidies and tax structures. These incentives are successful only if the demand for OSH responds to the change in the price of OSH investments and if the suppliers of OSH are able to increase their production smoothly. Otherwise, the subsidy will only lead to higher prices for OSH goods. Both public and private insurance companies can differentiate insurance premiums according to claim behavior in the past (experience rating). There is evidence that this can effectively lower the frequency of claims, but not the severity of cases. This papers concludes that incentives do not directly lead to improvement. When incentives are introduced, their objective(s) should be clear and the end result (ie what the incentive aims to promote) should be known to be effective in achieving healthy and safe workplaces.

This article refers to the following texts of the Journal: 2007;33(2):85-95  2003;29(3):239-245