May 13, 2010 | Ken Reed

The Hazards of Incentive Programs for Injury Reporting

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, held an on-line discussion about incentive programs.  You can listen to his discussion here.  He discussed the fact that many safety incentive programs do not enforce the correct behaviors.  His example was a pizza party at the end of the week for any division which has no reported injuries.  This is a pretty common type of incentive program.  He was specifically targeting injury prevention, but it could be expanded to included production bonuses, etc.  Let’s examine this a little closer.

First of all, does this pizza party encourage safer behavior during the week?  People are not normally trying to hurt themselves, and so probably already have some level of attention to their own personal safety.  I doubt that an extra slice of pizza on Friday will make any appreciable difference in my safety consciousness on Tuesday.  Therefore, there is no new incentive toward safer behavior due solely to the offer of the pizza.

So what are we really encouraging with these types of programs?  Non-reporting!  There are numerous ways that this is actually manifested.  There can be overt threats from co-workers to not report an injury.  There are more subtle feelings of letting down their co-workers that make people automatically want to hide injuries.  A boss whose semi-annual evaluation is determined (in part) by his department’s injury rate may either overtly or subtly “recommend” non-reporting.

OSHA appears to be struggling with this issue, and at least seems to recognize that these can be problems.  We discuss Soon, Certain, Positive rewards when trying to change peoples’ behaviors, and these guidelines can be used when developing your own SMARTER corrective actions. 

I’d like your thoughts on what programs you’ve seen that actually work.  For example, a program that rewards employees for identifying potentially hazardous situations is a much more proactive method of lowering injury rates and raising safety awareness and compliance.

What else have you seen that encourages safe work practices?  What Soon, Certain, Positive incentives have you seen that enforce safe behaviors?

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