Safety Incentive Programs
I just heard of a company that is proudly spruiking its new reward scheme in support of its Zero Harm policy – Eeerkk! “Safety Incentives” is still a very popular term used to reach this blog from search engines!
Without going into the complexities of human behaviour and the psychology involved (which you can read about here), it doesn’t take a genius to work out what happens or doesn’t happen when a company is approaching a major milestone, with significant reward linked to it, and someone gets hurt! I’ve been on sites approaching 1000 LTI free days and you can feel the nervous tension – not at all conducive to working safely. See this safety incentive video parody for a good laugh and reality check
In 2012, The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released a memorandum criticizing the practice. OSHA States: “This memorandum is intended to provide guidance to both field compliance officers and whistleblower investigative staff on several employer practices that can discourage employee reports of injuries and violate section 11(c), or other whistleblower statutes”
Download the memo here: Employer Safety Incentive and Disincentive Policies and Practices
From the memo: “OSHA has also observed that the potential for unlawful discrimination under all of these policies may increase when management or supervisory bonuses are linked to lower reported injury rates. While OSHA appreciates employers using safety as a key management metric, we cannot condone a program that encourages discrimination against workers who report injuries”
They highlight the following specific activities which they have observed (extracts from the memo):
- OSHA has received reports of employers who have a policy of taking disciplinary action against employees who are injured on the job, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the injury………
- In another situation, an employee who reports an injury or illness is disciplined, and the stated reason is that the employee has violated an employer rule about the time or manner for reporting injuries and illnesses…….
- In a third situation, an employee reports an injury, and the employer imposes discipline on the ground that the injury resulted from the violation of a safety rule by the employee…….
- Finally, some employers establish programs that unintentionally or intentionally provide employees an incentive to not report injuries. For example, an employer might enter all employees who have not been injured in the previous year in a drawing to win a prize, or a team of employees might be awarded a bonus if no one from the team is injured over some period of time.
Other government agencies have finally realised the “dis” incentive created by lag indicator rewards. For example The NSW Mine Advisory Council have produced a tool to asses your incentive scheme (once very common in the mining industry):