Objectives The aim of this review was to assess the evidence that occupational safety and health (OSH) legislative and regulatory policy could improve the working environment in terms of reduced levels of industrial injuries and fatalities, musculoskeletal disorders, worker complaints, sick leave and adverse occupational exposures. Methods A systematic literature review covering the years 1966‒2017 (February) was undertaken to capture both published and gray literature studies of OSH work environment interventions with quantitative measures of intervention effects. Studies that met specified in- and exclusion criteria went through an assessment of methodological quality. Included studies were grouped into five thematic domains: (i) introduction of OHS legislation, (ii) inspection/enforcement activity, (iii) training, such as improving knowledge, (iv), campaigns, and (v) introduction of technical device, such as mechanical lifting aids. The evidence synthesis was based on meta-analysis and a modified Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) approach. Results The search for peer-reviewed literature identified 14 743 journal articles of which 45 fulfilled the inclusion criteria and were eligible for meta-analysis. We identified 5181 articles and reports in the gray literature, of which 16 were evaluated qualitatively. There was moderately strong evidence for improvement by OHS legislation and inspections with respect to injuries and compliance. Conclusions This review indicates that legislative and regulatory policy may reduce injuries and fatalities and improve compliance with OHS regulation. A major research gap was identified with respect to the effects of OSH regulation targeting psychological and musculoskeletal disorders.