Exploring Rate-Based vs. Behavior-Based Safety Incentive Programs

There has been a lot of media coverage about the effectiveness of safety incentive programs over the past few years. Indeed, these programs, which were initially seen as measures that could potentially reduce the number of work-related injuries each year, are sometimes viewed as a tool that employers use to discourage their personnel from reporting work accidents. This article compares the two types of safety incentive programs with tips for best practices.

Let's compare Rate-Based vs. Behavior-Based Safety Incentive Programs

In a rate-based safety incentive program, employees get rewarded for reporting a small number of injuries contracted at work.

While in a behavior-based safety incentive program, rewards are tied to the adoption of safe behaviors. This means that if it’s proven that you applied all the necessary safety measures when performing the duty that led to your injury, or if you participate in training programs, you’ll get rewarded.

From the employer’s perspective, either program is good because it gives some leverage to negotiate lower premiums with the insurance company. 

Do rate-based safety incentive programs lead to underreporting?

This is a debate that is currently raging between advocates and opponents of safety incentive programs. The focus of the debate is on the rate-based programs, which are said to promote the non-reporting of work-related injuries. Consider a worker who managed to keep their rate of injuries/illnesses low for months and is only a few weeks away from being able to claim their reward. If they get injured during those weeks, they’ll feel mentally pressured not to file any reports by fear of seeing their targeted reward vanish.

And rate-based safety programs may be a direct violation of OSHA rules. Note this from osha.org and the U.S. Department of Labor: "Incentive programs that discourage employees from reporting their injuries are problematic because, under section 11(c), an employer may not "in any manner discriminate" against an employee because the employee exercises a protected right, such as the right to report an injury."

But which type of safety incentive program is better?

Proper application of a well planned safety incentive program guarantees that employers will reap the benefits. Ideally, employers should move away from rate-based programs, and encourage the adoption of safe behaviors instead. Not just because of OSHA, but also a study from DuPont revealed that behavior-based safety programs are effective in 87% of the companies it surveyed.

A safety program should be behavior-based rather than being injury-rate-based. It means employers should provide incentives to workers practicing safe operating procedures and practices instead of incentivizing schemes based on number of accidents.
— ProcessMap Corporation

To further succeed in your safety plans, we also recommend praising and recognizing employees in front of peers to acknowledge their safe behavior and encourage others to do the same. Foster a culture of "safety first" and be willing to compromise efficiency if needed in the name of safety.

As mentioned, we've found that monetary rewards for unreported injuries may violate OSHA policies and they also destroy employee morale.

Instead, we recommend incentives that promote worker participation in safety-related activities, such as identifying hazards or participating in investigations of injuries, incidents or "near misses."

As you might know, insurers conduct their own investigation when work comp claims are submitted. If they determine that the worker did everything right and the company had safety training and programs in place to help, they’ll likely not consider increasing the premiums. All they want to see is that proper safety measures are adopted. 

Please contact us for more information on making your safety incentive program a success!