In a recent online publication, a private company announced that it had been 7,969 days since one of their employees had lost time work due to an industrial accident. Admittedly, that’s a safety record to both respect and be jealous of. Although many companies advertise their no lost time accomplishments, none have come close to this remarkable achievement of well over 20 years!
It is not uncommon for companies to display signs at the entrance to their properties which display how many days it has been since their last industrial injury. Almost all these companies have some sort of safety incentive program in place, offering prizes and bonuses to employees whenever safety goals are achieved, especially for no-loss-time accidents. We recall back to the mid-1980’s when a certain company offered its employees a unique safety incentive prize called “a $2 pack.” It was issued by the Morton-Thiokol Corporation in Promontory, UT. Morton-Thiokol manufactures and tests solid fuel booster rocket engines for the aerospace industry. As one might imagine, due to the risk of a rocket fuel explosion, the company is deliberately isolated in the middle of a desert, some twenty miles from the nearest town. Whenever safety goals were achieved Morton-Thiokol would issue a congratulatory pack of $2 bills to every employee. Every local shopkeeper was aware when safety bonuses were issued at Morton-Thiokol as the entire town would be flooded with $2 bills. Store owners and residents soon realized that Morton-Thiokol was a safe place to work. This safety incentive program was widely applauded as not only were employees monetarily rewarded for working safely, but the entire town also benefited from the achievement.
Most safety incentive programs are well thought-out and often successful. However, some are not. One poorly thought-out safety incentive program involved an oil refinery in Northern California. The refinery would periodically take out a full-page ad in the local newspaper listing the names of every employee at the facility to publicly congratulate them whenever the company achieved 5,000 hours of no-lost-time. At first this seemed like a great idea as the public would continuously be reminded of their safety record. However, notwithstanding that a fatality had occurred two weeks earlier, the company mysteriously took out a full-page newspaper ad congratulating their workers for achieving 5,000 hours of no lost time. When pressed for an explanation as to how that announcement could be issued in the wake of an industrial death, the company ridiculously stated that the moment the worker died that person immediately ceased being an employee of the company, and as such no employee time was lost because the deceased was no longer in their employ. One can only imagine the widow’s reaction to this explanation. Putting aside the above-described “faux pas” it is beyond dispute that safety programs and the elimination of employee injuries are critical to the health of a company’s workforce, and the very viability of the company itself. If your company seeks a review and legal opinion as to the adequacy of its safety program, please do not hesitate to reach out to the experts here at the Law Firm of Friedman + Bartoumian.
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