Over at EconLog, David Henderson has a great post on markets and worker safety where he tries to answer the question “Does the market under-provide safety for the poor?” The blog post is a good one and I’d like to add my two cents:
From a purely productivity viewpoint, disregard for safety is disregard for profits. If workers are constantly getting hurt on the job, it hinders their productivity. Given that profit is tied to productivity, lower productivity means lower profit. Workers can’t increase their productivity if they are being hurt or killed. Any firm would tell you constant turnover is bad. You lose intelligence and skill.
Accidents happen in the workplace, not due to some careless disregard for safety (although I am willing to bet that may be the case in some minority of instances), but because they are indeed accidents. Any firm looks to protect its investment, whether that be a worker, piece of machinery, or building. An employer does not subject his investments to unnecessary risk. or, if he does, he doesn’t stay in business long.