Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Ex-OSHA Head Henshaw Joins Behavioral Consultant

Former OSHA head John Henshaw has joined Behavioral Science Technology, Inc. (BST) as a part-time "senior principal consultant" who will "advise BST clients on matters of environmental health and safety (EHS), and leadership's role in creating injury-free workplaces."

BST, as its name implies, is the nation's leading behavior safety consulting firm. Behavioral safety assumes that workers' behavior is at the bottom of most health and safety problems (as opposed to hazardous working conditions) and that incentives (like money) or punishments will "correct" that behavior.

Unions oppose safety incentive games as one of a variety of ways to discourage workers from reporting injuries or otherwise underestimate the rate of injuries and illnesses in the country.
A bridge contractor in California that was recently accused of undercounting injuries had a safety incentive Program" in which they dole out $100 to $2,500 bonuses, depending on the number of worker hours logged without a recordable injury. They also suspended a whole crew of workers because one of them suffered an on-the-job injury.

And incentive games like safety bingo can do more harm than just discouraging reporting. Minor injuries - the type that are most likely not to be reported - should be seen as warning signals of much more serious injuries: In a Massachusetts workplace, a worker was caught in an unguarded machine and crushed to death. Minor injuries that had occurred on that machine weren't being reported because the plant utilized both a safety bingo game that rewarded workers for not reporting injuries and a post-injury drug testing policy that mandated drug testing for all workers who reported injuries."

NASA had a five-year, $10 million contract with BSC to change the agency's culture following the Columbia disaster, but canceled less than halfway through.

There's much, much more on behavioral safety in Hazards Magazine