A good bit is staring to be written in workplace safety publications about the new OSHA regime’s “take” on incentive programs, long a staple of many a safety program.

For years, safety and health officials in the union ranks have complained that too many incentive programs are counter-productive: forcing employees to hide injuries in order to win contests.

The new leadership at the Department of Labor has picked up on that argument.

At the annual meeting of the Voluntary Protection Program Participants Association annual meeting in August, acting OSHA boss Jordan Barab elaborated on the agency’s new position regarding incentive programs:

“As part of (a forthcoming) recordkeeping National Emphasis Program, we will be taking a very close look at incentives, discipline and other programs that, while seeking to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses, produce unwelcome consequences. The current VPP directive warns about the potential impact of these programs on the accuracy of reporting. As we examine recordkeeping practices, we will also be looking at how these programs can discourage workers from reporting injuries and illnesses.

“OSHA has nothing against incentive programs as long as they encourage the right things and don't discourage reporting. For example, there's nothing wrong with providing incentives for reporting close calls, for taking a health and safety training course or for developing a training curriculum - as long as these incentives don't discourage workers from raising health and safety problems or reporting injuries and illnesses.”