Should You Reward Employees for Being Safe on the Job?

As an employer, you want to create a safe work environment for your employees. You strive to follow OSHA’s guidelines for workplace health and safety. You put policies and procedures in place and you provide training to ensure your employees know how to work safely.

But accidents still happen. The costs of on-the-job injuries can be high. Employees miss work, they file workers’ compensation claims, morale is harmed and productivity suffers. Doesn’t it make sense to offer a monetary incentive to reward workers for remaining injury free?

Not According to OSHA
In 2012, OSHA’s Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Fairfax distributed a memo detailing exactly why safety incentive programs can do more harm than good. The memorandum was lengthy and detailed. Here’s the gist of it:

Safety reward programs that offer incentives for remaining injury free are about offering a carrot rather than waving a stick. But the threat of withholding the carrot can be viewed as a punishment in and of itself. If an employee is told they will miss out on a bonus if they are injured, it doesn’t just encourage them to be careful not to get hurt. It can also be a strong disincentive against reporting. In effect, paying workers to stay safe can lead to a situation where they keep quiet about injuries to avoid missing out on their incentive.

When managers and supervisors are rewarded for keeping their teams injury free, the chances that a safety program will be abused increase. Employees may hesitate to incur the anger of their supervisor by reporting an injury that affects the supervisor’s paycheck. Both whistle-blower protection and recordkeeping rules may be violated in the attempt to keep injuries “off the books”.

How Can You Legally Promote Safety?
OSHA does have some tips for how to create a compliant safety incentive program. Instead of “zero-incident” programs, you might celebrate and recognize positive efforts. Here are some simple ideas for ways to do this.

  • When workers identify, report, and help correct workplace hazards, give them a gift like a “Safety Team” t-shirt they can wear at work.
  • Buy employees lunch or sponsor a dinner on the day they go through their annual safety training update.
  • Have a contest with modest prizes for employees who make the most helpful suggestions for ways to improve workplace safety.

Would you like help in creating a smart, compliant, and effective safety incentive program for your workplace? Contact our offices today.