… is certainly worth a barrel of cure.  Instead of having these guys with big yellow boots (I thought only 4-year old boys ran around in public in galoshes out of season), perhaps it would pay to have more egghead types crunching data on safety risk.  That was the message I gave in both my classes this week, as we sat down to read Shultz and Fischbeck’s “Workplace Accident and Compliance Monitoring: The Case of Offshore Platform Inspections,” from RFF’s Improving Regulation.  In that paper, they identify a set of factors (using factor analysis and a logistic regression model) that does a pretty good job of identifying the high-risk platforms.  Pretty good compared to what?  Well, certainly much better than random chance, and also better than the Minerals Management Service inspectors who were extensively interviewed for the project.

Neither Shultz nor Fischbeck have been in the press too much, but yesterday we finally did hear from one of them here:

Data problems date back at least a decade. According to John Shultz, who as a graduate student in the late 1990s studied MMS’ inspection program in depth for his dissertation, the agency’s data infrastructure was severely limited. “The thing I regret most is that, to my knowledge, MMS has not fixed the data management problem they have,” said Shultz, who now works in the Department of Energy’s nuclear program. “If you have the data you need, the analysis becomes fairly straightforward. Without the data, you’re simply stuck with conjectures.”

Anyone interested in taking a look at the Shultz and Fischbeck is welcome to contact me, for the paper or for a PowerPoint of their work.  Anyone interested in doing research or an independent study related to transportation fuels regulation should also contact me.