Employee incentive programs designed to encourage safety in the workplace can also discourage employees from reporting injuries or illnesses, and OSHA has recently finalized a ruling that will help prevent this problem. In the final ruling, OSHA prohibits any type of discrimination against employees who report injuries or illnesses, including discrimination that occurs through these incentive programs. Employers and employees alike need to understand this ruling and how it affects these incentive programs.
OSHA Ruling Did Not Officially Ban Incentive Programs
Much misinformation has been published about these incentive programs, and it is important for workers and employees both to understand the truth behind the programs. While OSHA has clearly stated that it views incentive programs as having the potential to discourage employees from reporting, because reporting an accident or illness could lead to the loss of a monetary benefit or other prizes, it does not actually ban these programs. Programs that are discriminatory in this way are in violation of OSHA rules, but other incentives are still possible.
What it does require is for these programs to be set up so that they encourage safety without also discouraging reporting. This is a difficult balance to achieve. If an incentive will deny a benefit of any sort because an employee reports are clearly in violation of this ruling. Thus, it becomes difficult to have incentive programs that reward for a certain number of days without an accident or something similar without violating the ruling.
Alternative Incentive Programs to Reward Safety
Instead, employers are encouraged to take on incentive programs that reward safety behaviors beyond accident-free time periods. This might be rewarding employees for wearing their personal protective equipment or following established safety protocols. Employees may be rewarded for pointing out ways to improve safety and health in the workplace or for serving on safety and health committees.
Work injury lawyers in Chicago applaud this ruling, because incentive programs that discourage reporting can lead to a false sense of safety in workplaces that have serious safety risks. Employers who readjust their incentive programs can continue to encourage safety in the workplace while still providing a safe enthronement for employees to report their illnesses or injuries when needed.