Michaels warns against 'unacceptable' incentive programs

October 14, 2010

Eliminating workplace injuries and illnesses relies on accurate recordkeeping and reporting, OSHA administrator David Michaels said recently, warning against some incentive programs that discourage such reporting.

Programs rewarding employees for not reporting injuries or disciplining them for reporting injuries, as well as those that provide managers with bonuses for lowering injury rates, are "unacceptable," Michaels said in an Oct. 6 speech at the United Steelworkers' Health, Safety and Environment Conference in Pittsburgh.

OSHA recently launched a recordkeeping (.pdf file) National Emphasis Program to assess the accuracy of employer-provided injury and illness data. Last month, the agency issued 83 willful citations and $1.2 million in proposed penalties to a Houston manufacturer for improperly recording work-related injuries.

On Monday, the Falls Church, VA-based Voluntary Protection Programs Participants' Association issued a statement supporting OSHA's position on incentive programs. "The association and its members disapprove of programs that discourage employees from reporting injuries because they want to receive a reward," VPPPA Executive Director R. Davis Layne said in a press release.

Both VPPPA and Michaels support incentive programs that reinforce positive behavior, such as rewarding employees for reporting hazards and near misses.