What will some people do to get their safety bonus? One safety manager hid more than 80 injuries to get a $2.5 million payout.
Walter Cardin, a former safety manager for the Shaw Group, has been sentenced to 6.5 years in prison for deliberately falsifying workplace injury records. He’ll also have two years’ of supervised release after he leaves prison.
The records were for work done by Shaw at three Tennessee Valley Authority nuclear plants, two in Tennessee and one in Alabama.
Cardin was convicted during a November 2012 trial of falsifying the records so Shaw could collect safety bonuses from TVA worth more than $2.5 million.
Prosecutors presented evidence of more than 80 injuries that weren’t properly recorded by Cardin, including:
- broken bones
- torn ligaments
- hernias, and
- shoulder, back and knee injuries.
Employees said they were denied medical treatment or it was delayed as a result.
Despite the evidence presented, Cardin denied intentionally misclassifying injuries. He also said he didn’t know safety bonuses were tied to his injury reports.
But investigators found emails sent by Cardin with this information.
Shaw paid back twice the amount of the safety bonuses it received from TVA.
Not just about safety bonus
U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of TN William Killian said there were consequences of Cardin’s fraud other than collecting undeserved bonuses. “The defendant’s practices affected the safety of the work environment of nuclear sites,” Killian said. “They resulted in employees becoming more reluctant to reports injuries, employers failing to address safety issues on the work sites, and employees working through medical conditions that created risks of additional injuries to themselves and others.”
A similar point was made by OSHA administrator David Michaels. “This case shows the destructive consequences that purely rate-based incentive programs can have,” Michaels said. “A comprehensive injury and illness prevention program in which employers commit to finding and fixing hazards can achieve real safety in the workplace.”
For companies that want to get away from injury-rate-based safety incentive programs, there is an alternative other than doing away with the bonuses altogether.
Some companies have started rewarding employees for pro-active safety, such as the number of hazards that are reported and mitigated.
It’s part of a change in the type of indicators measured by safety pros. While injuries — a lagging indicator — still have to be counted, companies are also measuring leading safety indicators such as amount of time spent on safety training and hazard reduction.