Business Insurance (03/27/16) Gonzalez, Gloria
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) so-called "Fairfax Memo" issued in 2012 outlined potential problems that workplace safety programs can create, such as discouraging workers from reporting workplace injuries and illnesses, which would violate federal health and safety and whistleblower laws. In a draft update in 2015, OSHA reiterated the problems with using incentives in workplace safety programs. OSHA has not adopted a standard or regulation that bans employee incentive programs outright, but some companies have responded to the guidance by halting these programs. Fisher & Phillips LLP partner Howard Mavity recommends against basing such programs on lagging indicators like injury and illness rates because they are ineffectual and could run afoul of OSHA. Instead, employees and supervisors should be evaluated based on leading indicators such as reporting near misses and fixing hazards without being told to do so, said W.E. Scott, director of consulting services at the National Safety Council. Northeastern University researchers devised a construction reporting program designed to promote, recognize, and reward safe working conditions that relied on worksite safety audits. In the program, foremen received weekly reports — including positive and negative examples — over a six-month period analyzing recognition of hazards such as lack of fall protection or guardrails. The approach triggered safety improvements in as little as 30 days, said researchers, and a passing score resulted in a catered lunch for employees and a raffled free parking space for a month for one employee.