not follow up on potential violations and hazards. Children often fall through these jurisdictional cracks.

Effectiveness of Regulation

One of the principal means for achieving occupational safety and health goals is government regulation of employers (Weeks, 1991). To what extent and under what circumstances do laws and regulations improve the health and safety of workers in general and children and adolescents in particular? The answer to these questions depends on the extent to which laws and regulations actually deter the behavior they were created to deter (i.e., the extent to which employers comply with the laws and regulations) and whether deterring violations actually improves workers' health and safety.

The basic assumption of the deterrence model of regulatory enforcement is that an agency with clear regulations and an extensive ability to detect and severely punish noncompliance can achieve a high degree of compliance with the law (Gray and Scholz, 1993). However, these ideal enforcement conditions seldom exist. Regulations are often complex, and agencies have limited resources for enforcement. Furthermore, studies have found that, compared with the costs of compliance, the threat of enforcement plays a minor role in corporate responses to health and safety issues (Bartel and Thomas, 1985; Sigler and Murphy, 1988). Gray and Scholtz (1993) speculate that inspections with monetary penalties increase managers' attention to potential safety hazards, thereby helping to reduce injuries. More telling, inspections triggered by complaints were found to reduce injuries regardless of whether penalties were imposed or not (Scholz and Gray, 1997).

The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is an example of an agency that has successfully reduced health and safety hazards through regulatory enforcement. Following the passage of the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, there was a sharp and sustained decrease in the fatality rate per hours worked and per ton of coal mined. Productivity in coal mining decreased for approximately 10 years after the act was implemented but then improved steadily (Weeks, 1991). Although there is evidence of OSHA'S effectiveness, there is little evidence that its regulations have affected occupational injury rates in the United States to the same extent that MSHA has affected underground mine fatality rates (Mintz, 1984;



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement