OHS Prosecutions: Do They Deter Other Companies from Offending?
Journal of Health, Safety and Environment, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp. 213-231, 2010
31 Pages Posted: 13 Nov 2010
Date Written: November 12, 2010
This paper examines the general deterrent impact of OHS prosecutions in New South Wales and Victoria. Based on interviews with non-prosecuted employers from a range of industries and organisational sizes, it was found that prosecutions had some general deterrent impact in line with classical deterrence theory, with effects varying according to company size. Employers also outlined a range of other factors determining whether they complied with OHS legislation including legislative change and the general threat of prosecution. While prosecutions made participants more aware of their responsibilities under OHS legislation, many rejected the idea that they were responsible for employees’ own risky behaviour. The paper concludes with a reworking of deterrence theory which takes into account the contested nature of OHS legislation. Overall we argue that prosecutions play an important role in preventing serious workplace deaths and injuries primarily through their constitutive and symbolic effects, rather than employers’ fear of facing criminal conviction and sanctions.
Keywords: general deterrence, prosecution, OHS, theory
JEL Classification: K10, K30, K31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation