A Government Accountability Office (GAO) study finds that safety incentive programs may discourage reporting of injuries and illness, and suggests better OSHA guidance is needed.
According to the GAO, little research exists on the effect of workplace safety incentive programs and other workplace safety policies on workers’ reporting of injuries and illnesses, but several experts identified a link between certain types of programs and policies and reporting.
The study notes that researchers distinguish between rate-based safety incentive programs, which reward workers for achieving low rates of reported injuries or illnesses, and behavior-based programs, which reward workers for certain behaviors, such as recommending safety improvements.
Experts and industry officials suggest that rate-based programs may discourage reporting of injuries and illnesses. They also report that certain workplace polices, such as post-incident drug and alcohol testing, may discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses.
Researchers and workplace safety experts emphasize that how safety is managed in the workplace, including employer practices such as fostering open communication about safety issues, may encourage reporting of injuries and illnesses.
The GAO estimates that 25 percent of U.S. manufacturers have safety incentive programs, and most have other workplace safety policies that, according to experts and industry officials, may affect injury and illness reporting.
· It’s estimated that 22 percent of manufacturers have rate-based safety incentive programs, and 14 percent have behavior-based programs.
· Almost 70 percent of manufacturers also have demerit systems, which discipline workers for unsafe behaviors
· Most manufacturers have more than one safety incentive program or other workplace safety policy and more than 20 percent had several.
· Such programs and policies were more common among larger manufacturers.
What GAO Recommends
The GAO recommends that OSHA provide guidance about safety incentive programs and other workplace safety policies consistently across the agency’s cooperative programs, and add language about safety incentive programs and other workplace safety policies to the guidance provided to inspectors in its field operations manual.
OSHA agrees with the recommendations, and noted its plans to address them.