OSHA Memorandum Clarifies Workplace Safety Incentive Programs

Posted: November 01, 2018

A person in a lab performing a drug test

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a memorandum on October 11, 2018, providing clarification on implementing a workplace safety and health incentive program. The memorandum provides continued guidance in the event a post-incident drug test occurs in the workplace.

2016 Final Ruling

Back in May of 2016, OSHA published a final ruling on post-incident drug testing in the workplace that was enforced in December of 2016. Their goal was to improve the tracking of workplace injuries and illnesses. The intent of the ruling is to better protect individuals from being discharged or discriminated against by an employer for reporting any fatality, injury or illness.

New OSHA Memorandum to the Final Ruling

Now, the recent OSHA memorandum aims to provide some clarity around the final ruling that was enforced in December of 2016. Employers who have implemented incentive programs and post-incident drug testing must show they have a safe, healthy workplace. The only way an employer would violate the ruling – 29 C.F.R 1904.35 (b)(1)(iv) – is if they penalize an employee for reporting a work-related injury or illness. Under the most recent rule, OSHA does not need to receive an employee complaint in order to investigate a retaliation claim. Previously, OSHA could only investigate a potential case of retaliation if a complaint was filed within 30 days of the alleged retaliation. Additionally, the new OSHA memorandum outlines parameters for electronic submission of injury and illness information that employers must document. Generally, the documentation requirement will vary depending on the size of the organization. More importantly, the final rule does not prohibit employers from drug testing employees. However, OSHA highlights that drug testing (or even the threat of drug testing) that is retaliatory in nature, or appears to be, is prohibited. OSHA’s stance is that employers who drug test in accordance with federal or state law or regulation do so without the motive of retaliation.

Examples of an Active Incentive Program

So, what exactly is an incentive program that promotes workplace safety and health? Here are some examples:
  • An organization creates an incentive program to reward employees for reporting near-misses and encourages involvement in a safety-conscious, healthy company.
  • An organization structures a incentive-based program that focuses on the overall decrease of reported incidents and illnesses. The incentives could involve bonuses, prizes, perks, etc.
The two examples above follow the OSHA ruling as long as the employer implements adequate incentive programs to ensure that the employees feel free to report an injury or illness without fear of retaliation from the company. Wondering if your incentive program is compliant with OSHA? Start with reviewing your internal policy and procedures, and assess the level of training you provide to your staff on new incentive programs. Navigating OSHA compliance can be tricky, and you don’t have to sift through the regulations alone. Info Cubic’s Client Service Ninjas are experts in drug testing regulations and can answer your questions about your current program or plans to implement one. Contact us today to get some peace of mind around your drug testing process at your organization.