Safety programs that discourage workers from reporting injuries may violate federal regulations

May 15, 2012 |
Dwight Perkins

Incentive programs designed to improve workplace safety can sometimes discourage employees from reporting injuries, according to recent studies. And, if the incentive program does have that effect, it could put the employer at risk of violating federal safety regulations. In a 2009 report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that safety incentive programs “can provide disincentives for workers to report injuries and illnesses to their employers.”

This month GAO released a report recommending that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) do more to shed light on the effects of incentives on reporting. Although OSHA is not required to regulate safety incentive programs, GAO urged OSHA to address the potential effects of such programs and other workplace safety policies on injury and illness reporting.

OSHA recently issued a memo warning employers that some programs that discourage employees from reporting injuries are problematic because an employer may not “in any manner discriminate” against an employee if the employee exercises the protected right to report an injury.

In addition, OSHA warns, “If the incentive is great enough that its loss dissuades reasonable workers from reporting injuries,” the program could result in an employer being in violation of recordkeeping responsibilities. Certain polices, such as post-incident drug and alcohol testing, as well as demerit programs that are used to discipline unsafe workers, may also discourage workers from reporting injuries. By contrast, employer practices such as fostering open communication about safety issues may encourage reporting of injuries and illnesses.


NOTE:This information is the opinion of the author/blogger and not the official position of IAPMO.

Dwight Perkins | Codes and Standards

Dwight Perkins is the Senior Director of Field Operations for the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) and orchestrates the code adoption efforts of 11 other IAPMO Field Service regions as well as directly working with the state code agencies in Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada and Oregon. Mr. Perkins has more than 35 years experience in the plumbing industry starting as an Apprentice in Alaska moving through the ranks to become a Journeyman Plumber and Business Manager of with UA Local 262. Prior to joining IAPMO, Perkins served in the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly while worked as Deputy Commissioner for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. He is extremely familiar with the demands jurisdictions face on a daily basis and he is particularly well suited to address those needs. Mr. Perkins may be contacted at IAPMO at 503-982-1193 or email

Related Blogs

Overlay Init