Workplace Injury and The New OSHA

Occupational Safety and Health Administration - U.S. Department of Labour

Peer Reviewed
OSHA (since 9/1/95) offers incentives to employers with safety and health programs, implemented - not just on paper.
If you are an employer, the thought of OSHA knocking on your business door may elicit adverse feelings. But, not to worry ... that is, if you are doing what responsible employers should for their employees and their bottom line.

OSHA has developed incentive plans for employers because they have determined "safety and health programs have been shown to be the key to reducing workplace injuries and illnesses."

Incentives for Employers with Safety and Health Programs

Action: Recognize employers who have demonstrated a high level of effective self-enforcement of safety and health requirements by providing significant reductions--up to 100%--in penalties for violations.

Background: Effective safety and health programs have been shown to be the key to reducing workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA's current penalty policy provides for very high penalties for the worst violations, those characterized as "egregious willful." OSHA believes that its penalty policy should also recognize those employers who have demonstrated a high level of commitment to safety and health for their employees by implementing an effective onsite safety and health program.

Description: If OSHA determines, during the course of a workplace inspection, that an employer has implemented a superior safety and health program, it will grant large reductions in the penalties that would otherwise be assessed for any violations found. Penalties will be eliminated entirely for violations that do not involve significant safety or health threats to workers, and citations will not be issued for such violations if corrected during the course of the inspection. For employers who have less effective programs in place but are making good faith efforts, OSHA will grant a sliding scale of incentives.

The qualifying employer's program must include each of the recognized elements of an effective safety and health program: management commitment, meaningful employee involvement in the development and implementation of the program, worker and supervisor training, diligent efforts to identify potential hazards in the workplace, and effective measures to prevent or control such hazards. The program must be effective in practice and not just on paper. As evidence of the program's effectiveness, OSHA will expect to find that the workplace has a verifiable low injury and illness rate; that the workplace has not been cited in the past three years for the gravest types of violations (willful, repeated, failure to abate, or high gravity serious violations); that there is documentation of on-going efforts that hazards are identified and corrected in a timely fashion; that the inspection was not prompted by an employee fatality or catastrophic accident; that any violations found in the current inspection are comparatively minor, considering the size and activities of the workplace, and do not include the gravest types of violation; and that the employer is prepared to correct any violations found. Whistleblower protection is also an important part of safety and health. Without strong anti-discrimination protection, some employees will not participate in safety and health activities because of the potential for retaliatory action by their employer.

Updated on: 09/07/12
Brian R. Subach, MD
In an effort to minimize workplace injuries, the government (through OSHA) is attempting to crack down on employers who expose employees to high levels of injury risk, while at the same time rewarding employers who have demonstrated above-average concern for their workers well-being. Such incentives will hopefully improve working conditions by applauding the efforts of the companies demonstrating the most effort.