Do SAFETY INCENTIVE PROGRAMS work?

Posted: May 16, 2012 in Safety Incentives
Tags: , , , , , ,

I’m neither the first nor the last person to ask this age old question:  Do SAFETY INCENTIVE PROGRAMS work?   If data supported that incentives reduce accidents, then everybody would have an incentive program in place.  Data suggests that incentive programs discourage the reporting of accidents and have an adverse effect on safety.   What is the right answer?

In March, 2005, 15 workers died and 180 others were injured in an explosion at the BP Texas City refinery.  Investigation showed that a safety incentive program at the refinery rewarded workers with bonuses for achieving low injury rates.   The investigation revealed that workers feared reprisals for reporting potentially risky conditions at the refinery.   This accident prompted the US Congress to ask the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into safety incentive programs.   In 2009, GAO issued a report that found that safety incentive programs “can provide disincentives for workers to report injuries to their employers”.

The GAO has performed a new study in April, 2012 recommending that OSHA do more to shed light on the effects of incentives and other safety programs on reporting.  OSHA warns, “If the incentive is great enough that its loss dissuades reasonable workers from reporting injuries,” the program could result in an employer being in violation of record keeping responsibilities.

The other side of this argument:  If incentives keep an employee from breaking a safety rule and eliminate an accident, than the incentive was worth it.   If the incentive has an employee bring up a safety concern their supervisor, and it prevents an accident not happening, then the incentive was worth it.

In my opinion, I think incentives are a good thing as long as they do not discourage accident reporting.   This can be accomplished by keeping the incentive amount at a fairly low level which will not discourage accident reporting.    Another alternative is to provide incentives for positive behavior (reporting unsafe conditions) rather than on accident rates.

I am going to review safety incentives – what about you?

STAY SAFE!     **  Jeff  **   214-215-2434

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