GAO Recommends New OSHA Regulations

May 15, 2012

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report entitled “Better OSHA Guidance Needed on Safety Incentive Programs,” [GAO-12-329 (April, 2012)] that encourages OSHA to issue regulations governing safety incentive programs.

GAO estimated that 25 percent of U.S. manufacturers had safety incentive programs, and most had other workplace safety policies that may affect injury and illness reporting. GAO estimated that 22 percent of manufacturers had rate-based safety incentive programs, and 14 percent had behavior-based programs. Almost 70 percent of manufacturers also had demerit systems, which discipline workers for unsafe behaviors, and 56 percent had post-incident drug and alcohol testing policies. Most manufacturers had more than one safety incentive program or other workplace safety policy and more than 20 percent had several. Such programs and policies were more common among larger manufacturers, according to GAO.

GAO is concerned that rate-based programs may discourage injury and illness reporting.

GAO recommended that “[to] increase consistency across OSHA’s cooperative programs, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary of OSHA to implement criteria on safety incentive programs and other workplace safety policies across all of its cooperative programs such as Voluntary Protection Programs (VPPs) and Safety & Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). The criteria should be consistent with the most recent VPP guidance memorandum that prohibits employers with safety incentive programs that focus on injury and illness rates from participating in the program.

According to the report: “To help OSHA inspectors consistently educate employers about the importance of safety culture, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Assistant Secretary of OSHA to add language about key elements of a positive safety culture—and the potential effect of different types of safety incentive programs and other workplace safety policies—to its field operations manual.”

To read the GAO report, click here.