Safety Is Its Own Reward


How does your workplace encourage the reporting of work-related injuries and illnesses? Oftentimes, the policies and procedures created to encourage the reporting of workplace accidents actually prevent management from receiving reports, due largely to incentive programs. The resulting effect can largely impact scrutiny from OSHA as well as increased premiums for Utah workers compensation. If your company offers safety bonuses for accident-free periods, you may need to evaluate the practices taking place on job sites and company property.

The Cons of Safety Bonuses

When employees don’t report these incidents, your company is in violation of OSHA’s Injury and Illness Recordkeeping rule. To encourage incident reporting and protect workers against employer retaliation, OSHA offers whistleblower provisions to protect these activities for employees and cite employers who discourage reporting. There are more than twenty statuses offered by the Whistleblower Protection Program to ensure that employees cannot be fired, demoted, disciplined or denied benefits by reporting accidents. Research performed by OSHA indicates that even safety incentive programs meant to encourage safe activities can actually result in the opposite effect. While offering rewards to employees is a good motivating factor toward reducing workplace accidents, it also encourages employees to underreport injuries to minimize penalties on rewards.

Programs That Encourage Underreporting

Research by OSHA indicates that the following types of incentive programs should be avoided:

  • Offer rewards “substantial enough to cause a reasonable person not to report”
  • Penalize an entire team if one worker is injured
  • Tie supervisor and management bonuses to injury rates

Furthermore, rather than offering bonuses for low or zero-accident records, your supervisors and managers should instead look to implement more amicable methods of incentives.

Safety Bucks

Many general contractors and subcontractors offer a monthly bonus for departments that have no reported accidents, but this results in many workers not reporting injuries as they don’t want to be held responsible for losing their team’s bonus. As a way of getting around this, many companies now employ the use of “safety bucks” which not only encourages safe practices, but also the reporting of incidents. These currencies can be printed into different denominations and then distributed to workers when a supervisor or manager witnesses an act of safety being performed. This ensures workers are constantly maintaining safe work practices in the hopes they “might” (as opposed to “will”) be rewarded. Once a safety dollar is distributed, workers can then purchase prizes during department safety meetings. Prizes can be purchased outright or even bid upon to help build an environment of fun and competition. These rewards can be anything from candy bars to bigger prizes like e-readers or a paid day off. Safety is an important concern for any company. When incentives designed to encourage safety make employees give pause about reporting incidents, then your company is at risk of examination by government entities. OSHA is in place for the protection of employees, not as an excuse to look good on paper. It’s an excellent habit to regularly examine your incentive programs and recordkeeping procedures to ensure it does not encourage workers to hide information, and more importantly, so it keeps your workers safe.

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