OSHA administrator David Michaels says safety incentive programs based primarily on injury numbers often discourage employees from reporting injuries. Now Michaels has more support for that position.
The Voluntary Protection Programs Participants’ Association (VPPPA) agrees that safety incentive programs must not encourage under-reporting of injuries.
The VPPPA is a nonprofit association of companies that participate in OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). It has almost 2,100 members.
What makes VPPPA’s support for Michaels’ position more remarkable is that the group has been at odds with OSHA recently over how the VPP will be funded.
Michaels wants to use fees paid by participating companies to fund VPP in the future. The VPPPA wants federal funding of the program to continue.
Use a different type of incentive program
VPPPA recommends that if safety incentive programs are used, they should reinforce positive behavior, not reward a lack of injuries.
“Good incentive programs feature positive reinforcement for demonstrating safe work practices and taking active measures in hazard recognition, analysis and prevention,” VPPPA Executive Director R. Davis Layne said.
OSHA is concerned about the type of safety incentive program that rewards a plant with a steak dinner for not having any reportable injuries.
In fact, OSHA has said that if it finds such an incentive program is responsible for injuries not being reported at a company, it could cause a recordkeeping violation to rise from a minor “other-than-serious” infraction to the willful level, which carries a much higher financial penalty.
What’s an example of a positive-reinforcement safety incentive program? Reward employees when they exhibit good safety behaviors. Is a worker using PPE properly? Award points to the worker which can be cashed in for a company shirt or hat. The same system can be used when employees report potential hazards and suggest methods to eliminate them.
Does your company use a positive-reinforcement safety incentive program? You can share your ideas with others in the Comments Box below.