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Workplace incentives for staying safe – progressive or misguided?

Businesses and workers have every interest in keeping their workplace safe.  Owners don’t want to lose workers to injury, and of course workers don’t want to be sidelined after an accident, unable to provide for their families.  However, one way of encouraging workers to stay safe is drawing criticism.

Some companies reward workers with bonuses if the workplace stays accident-free for a certain period of time.  On the plus side, workers have an additional reason to work carefully and look out for each other.  On the downside, this can create an environment where an injured worker may feel pressure from coworkers to not report an injury, or they may feel harassed if they do report one.  Cynics even contend that this kind of internal worker pressure if just the type of environment that employers are trying to create to keep injury claims down.

Some ‘incentives’ intended to keep workers injury-free are even more unpleasant.  One manufacturing plant uses a program of progressive discipline for when workers repeatedly sustain injuries that the employer believes to be partially the workers’ fault.  In this case, workers first receive a verbal warning, then a written warning, then probation, then five days of suspension, and finally dismissal.

The workers’ comp claim system has become so adversarial in recent years that some workers don’t bother filing claims when they are hurt on the job.  What does it say about the workers’ comp system in New York if we allow workers to be injured while at work, and then let them be pressured into keeping quiet about it?

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