OSHA Issues Memo on Employer Safety Incentive and Disincentive Policies and Practices
April 16, 2012

OSHA Issues Memo on Employer Safety Incentive and Disincentive Policies and Practices

On March 12, 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memo from Deputy Assistant Secretary Richard Fairfax to OSHA Regional Administrators and Whistleblower Program Managers detailing the agency’s policy regarding safety incentive programs and disincentive policies that can discourage employee reports of injuries which may violate section 11(c), or other whistleblower statutes.

The memo includes what OSHA considers the most common potentially discriminatory policies.  The following are examples of those policies cited by OSHA:

  1.    Policies of taking disciplinary action against employees who are injured on the job, regardless of the circumstances surrounding the injury.
  2.    Employees who reports an injury or illness is disciplined, and the stated reason is that the employee has violated an employer rule about the time or manner for reporting injuries and illnesses.
  3.    Employees report an injury, and the employer imposes discipline on the ground that the injury resulted from the violation of a vague safety rule such as a requirement that employees “maintain situational awareness” or “work carefully” may be manipulated and used as a pretext for unlawful discrimination.
  4.    Employers establish programs that unintentionally or intentionally provide employees an incentive to not report injuries such as entering all employees who have not been injured in the previous year in a drawing to win a prize, or a team of employees might be awarded a bonus if no one from the team is injured over some period of time.

OSHA also suggested in the memo that the potential for unlawful discrimination under all of these policies may increase when management or supervisory bonuses are linked to lower reported injury rates. For access to the entire text of the memo click here.

For additional information, contact Kevin Cannon, AGC’s Director of Safety,  at cannonk@agc.org or (703) 837-5410.