In his inaugural lecture, Niels Philipsen discusses the (potential) role of private actors in the regulation of work-related risks, such as industrial accidents and occupational diseases. Taking the economic analysis of regulation as a starting point, Philipsen argues that a'smart mix' of public and private regulation is needed for an optimal prevention and compensation of work-related risks. Some advantages and disadvantages of different regulatory instruments are discussed. In the second part of this lecture, economic theory is confronted with some of the available empirical evidence. Do private actors really respond to shifts in regulation according to the predictions made in the theoretical law and economics literature? Philipsen addresses this question for three groups of private actors: employees, employers and (liability) insurers. On the basis of a quick-scan of the literature, Philipsen concludes that there are still several unresolved questions concerning the coping behaviour of these private actors. The conclusions take the form of a research agenda, in which the importance of empirical research is emphasized.