The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is taking another look at the controversial issue of how safety incentive programs on the job impact the willingness of workers to report injuries or accidents.
The new review will examine the conclusion of an earlier OSHA report that a 2005 explosion at a BP oil refinery — which killed 15 employees and injured another 180 people — was due in part to a job safety program that provided workers with disincentives for reporting injuries and accidents (the lower the reported rate of mishaps, the higher the bonuses that employees received).
OSHA recently warned employers that if their safety programs discourage workers “in any way” from reporting potential dangers on the job they could face penalties for discrimination against the employee’s right to free speech — as well as violating OSHA requirements that the employer keep accurate workplace records. Although programs which encourage worker safety by offering employees or work teams such incentives as bonuses for having no injuries or accidents over a period of time might be “well-intentioned,” OSHA noted that these programs are far more effective if they focus on positive safety-related activities, such as pinpointing hazards in the workplace, or helping investigate mishaps or “near misses” on the job. For example, the agency’s guidelines for its Voluntary Protection Program include providing workers with such rewards as cash, gift cards, and T-shirts. A company might also honor workers for their contributions to a comprehensive safety program by hosting a party. On the negative side, employees who violate safety rules would receive demerits.
See an in-depth report on this complex issue from the General Accounting Office here.
The bottom line: To develop an effective workplace safety program, you’ll need to create and maintain open lines of communication with your employees. Our risk management professionals stand ready to analyze your business and offer recommendations on a comprehensive safety program to keep your workers as safe as possible.