The Economy and Workplace Safety: Evidence from the Macro-Level



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Despite industry efforts to improve workplace safety, every year within the United States there remain over three million occupational injuries that occur on the job. To better understand these costly safety outcomes, I utilized a novel stressor, economic stress (Catalano & Dooley, 1983), to develop a cross-level theoretical model whereby economic stress influences workplace safety outcomes by exerting a nonlinear influence on individual safety performance. Using data from 42 states over 19 years (totaling 798 observations), I estimated a series of nested multilevel models to explain the state-level variability in workplace safety as a function of local economic conditions. Results showed support for the hypothesized nonlinear, “U-Shape” curve between workplace safety outcomes and the state of the macro economy. Safety outcomes improved as the state of the economy worsened until reaching a “tipping point” at approximately 3.94% above the state mean-level of unemployment. Practical implications are discussed in light of these findings, including the need for organizations to consider employing state-level safety interventions in response to severe macroeconomic stressors.



Economic stress, Multilevel modeling