The results of a recent study have prompted the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to request that OSHA provide employers with guidance on how to properly implement a safety incentive program that does not discourage employees from reporting workplace injuries or illnesses. The recommendation was made after a study showed that certain types of safety programs disincentivized reporting.

At Issue: Rate-Based Programs

The GAO targeted rate-based safety incentive programs in particular. Rate-based safety incentive programs reward workers for low rates of reported injuries. For example, an employer may provide a prize for workers with no or few injuries or illnesses on their records.

Unfortunately, these types of programs tend to encourage workers to underreport their workplace injuries or illnesses or to fail to report them entirely. The GAO estimates that of the 25 percent of employers in the manufacturing industry that have safety incentive programs, 22 percent have a rate-based system. Penalty-based systems are more popular, implemented in 70 percent of manufacturers.

Behavior-Based Programs More Effective

OSHA is now urging employers to adopt behavior-based safety incentive programs instead of rate-based or penalty-based programs. Behavior-based programs may reward employees for participating in safety trainings, identifying workplace hazards and participating in injury investigations. These prizes contribute positively to the safety of the workplace and encourage employees to report their injuries or illnesses.

Behavior-Based Programs May Help Prevent Workplace Discrimination

Behavior-based safety incentive programs also help employers comply with workplace discrimination rules. With a rate-based program, employers, perhaps inadvertently, discriminate against workers who report injuries or illness by rewarding those that do not have such injuries on their records. Reporting workplace injuries or illnesses is a protected activity under OSHA safety rules.

Employees must feel safe reporting injuries or illnesses and confident that they will not be penalized for exercising their right to report workplace injuries and safety hazards. If employees do not feel comfortable reporting workplace injuries or illness, or are incentivized to not report them through a rate-based program, worker safety is significantly compromised and the workplace may become even more hazardous.

If you or a loved one has been injured at the workplace and has been encouraged, either directly or indirectly, not to report the incident, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you understand your legal options.