Do Management System Standards Indicate Superior Performance? Evidence from the OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Standard

41 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2021

See all articles by Kala Viswanathan

Kala Viswanathan

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Matthew S. Johnson

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy

Michael W. Toffel

Harvard Business School

Date Written: December 5, 2021

Abstract

Millions of companies around the world have adopted management system standards to both convey superior operational performance and to improve their operations. Yet because these standards impose requirements on operational processes and procedures, it is largely unknown whether adopting these standards actually bears any relationship with operational performance. We examine this question in the context of the OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Management system standard. Analyzing proprietary certification data from some of the world’s largest certification companies and injury microdata from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, we find that U.S. establishments certified to the OHSAS 18001 standard indeed tend to be safer workplaces. The OHSAS 18001 standard attracts establishments with fewer injury and illness cases than comparable non-adopters (a selection effect), and certification leads to subsequent declines in such cases (a treatment effect). These results provide rare evidence the adoption of a management system standard serves both as a credible indicator of superior operational performance, as well as a means to improve performance.

Keywords: standards, occupational health and safety, program evaluation, quality, safety performance, injuries, OHSAS 18001, ISO 45001

Suggested Citation

Viswanathan, Kala and Johnson, Matthew and Toffel, Michael W., Do Management System Standards Indicate Superior Performance? Evidence from the OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety Standard (December 5, 2021). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 22-042, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3988416 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3988416

Kala Viswanathan

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Matthew Johnson

Duke University - Sanford School of Public Policy ( email )

201 Science Drive
Box 90312
Durham, NC 27708-0239
United States

Michael W. Toffel (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617.384.8043 (Phone)

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