Certain Employee Safety Incentives May be Illegal in U.S.: Occupational Safety & Health Administration

The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration has warned U.S. employers that some safety incentive programs might discourage workers from reporting injuries, and therefore might “discriminate” against workers who wish to exercise their legal right to report injuries to their employer.

OSHA notes:

“For example, an employer might enter 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. Such programs might be well-intentioned efforts by employers to encourage their workers to use safe practices. However, there are better ways to encourage safe work practices, such as incentives that promote worker participation in safety-related activities, such as identifying hazards or participating in investigations of injuries, incidents or ‘near misses’.”

OSHA’s pronouncement on safety incentives does not legally apply to employers in Ontario.  However, Ontario employers should consider whether their safety incentive programs could discourage employees from reporting injuries to the employer and/or to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (resulting in potential issues for the employer with the WSIB) or could lead to a reprisal complaint under the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act (“I lost my safety bonus because I reported a safety incident to my employer”).

OSHA, “Employer Safety Incentive and Disincentive Policies and Practices”: http://www.osha.gov/as/opa/whistleblowermemo.html

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Adrian Miedema

About Adrian Miedema

Adrian is a partner in the Toronto Employment group of Dentons Canada LLP. He advises and represents public- and private-sector employers in employment, health and safety and human rights matters. He appears before employment tribunals and all levels of the Ontario courts on behalf of employers. He also advises employers on strategic and risk management considerations in employment policy and contracts.

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