Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Jul 21, 2016

OSHA will scrutinize employee safety incentive programs

Safety and Health 

Safety incentive programs are under fire from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Safety incentive programs are under fire from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In our last newsletter, we reported on OSHA’s general disapproval of automatic post-accident drug testing in its new injury and illness reporting rule. In commentary to the rule, OSHA also expresses discontent about safety incentive programs. Although OSHA’s dislike of incentive programs is not new, the rule commentary further clarifies and entrenches OSHA’s position: incentive programs must be structured to encourage safety, not discourage reporting of illnesses and injuries. In the commentary, OSHA calls out prize drawings (employees are included in the pool if they have not been injured in the previous year) and monetary rewards (a bonus given to a team for zero recordable injuries during the prior quarter) as having a chilling effect on reporting injuries. OSHA provides examples of incentive programs that would pass muster, including t-shirts for safety committee volunteers, rewards for safety improvement recommendations, and parties for completing company-wide safety and health training.
Tips: If you have a safety incentive program, consider whether it could reasonably deter an employee from reporting an injury or illness. If your program treats all injuries and illnesses equally, without considering the cause, that’s a major red flag. If you want to have an incentive program that takes injuries into account, OSHA probably won’t like it. However, you can reduce your risk of a retaliation claim by focusing on whether a specific safety violation caused an injury, not the mere fact that an injury or illness has occurred. You should also take into account property damage and near misses. As reported in today’s newsletter, the anti-retaliation portion of OSHA’s new rule is scheduled to take effect on August 10, 2016, but OSHA has delayed enforcement until November 1, 2016. If you have questions about how to design an incentive program that encourages safe behavior without punishing injury or illness reporting, call your Vigilant safety professional.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.