OSHA’s Ban on Safety Incentive Programs

OSHA has recently reinforced its criticism of employers’ safety incentive programs that offer bonuses or other incentives related to the number of work-related injuries or illnesses reported during a specific period of time.

While OSHA permits employers to reward employees for going a month, quarter, or year without a recorded injury or illness, OSHA prohibits programs that have the effect of discouraging employees from recording or reporting a work-related injury or illness. For example, programs that offer a large bonus to employees who did not have any reportable OSHA injury or illnesses that year create a strong incentive for employees to avoid reporting or recording work-related injuries or illnesses in order to receive the bonus. OSHA treats safety incentive programs that create a disincentive to reporting as unlawful retaliation under Section 11(c) of OSHA, and will sanction employers for implementing those programs.

Employers with safety incentive programs need to evaluate those programs to determine whether they constitute unlawful retaliation under OSHA. An example of an acceptable safety incentive program might be one that does not focus solely on the number of reportable injuries, but instead looks at whether employees fully participated in safety training or suggested ways to improve the company’s health and safety practices. Of course, any safety incentive program must strenuously reinforce the importance of reporting and recording of all work-related injuries or illnesses.

For questions about OSHA’s scrutiny of safety incentive programs or any other employment law issue, please contact any of our employment attorneys at LightGabler.