Cash no go for safety

DO safety incentive schemes in fact work against safety by encouraging under-reporting and other perverse incentives? Do they have their place in the New South Wales mining industry or is it time to phase them out? It is up to the state's mining industry to decide.
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Angie Tomlinson

The recent Digging Deeper report into mine safety in NSW has suggested that safety incentive schemes should not be used.

It stated schemes can lead to under-reporting; neglect of occupational health issues; workforce cynicism; a focus on occupation health and safety (OHS) management rather than risk control; and an inappropriate focus on worker behaviour rather than the behaviour of everyone who influences OHS outcomes and on the underlying causes of risk.

“The mining industry should no longer pay workers in the industry money or equivalent benefits as a result of the achievement of particular targets for outcome data," the report said, citing examples of targets such as lost-time injury frequency rates (LTIFR) and medical treatment injury frequency rates (MTIFR).

The report said schemes should instead be reviewed and developed in line with good practice principles, such as the encouragement of effective OHS management, not outcomes, and management commitment; be designed, implemented and reviewed in a consultative and regular fashion; and encourage teams as well as individuals.

In a recent industry workshop, industry participants were supportive of phasing out incentive schemes, but conceded that it would, and should, be done gradually.

Research has found that there are generally two types of safety schemes at play in the NSW mining industry: reward schemes that offer financial benefits for reaching specific targets; and celebration schemes which give recognition, such as award nights for safety innovations.

“Safety incentive schemes that involve payment in exchange for achieving particular outcome targets have not proved themselves to consistently or reliably improve safety outcomes,” the NSW Mine Safety Advisory Council said in its discussion paper released this week.

“In a world-class OHS system, people contribute to OHS management, not because of extra money, but because it is ‘the right thing to do’

“Approaches that recognise or reward high achievements and contributions may have more positive results than those that make payments in exchange for low levels of reported injuries."

The discussion paper released this week by MSAC is part of its action plan in response to the 25 recommendations coming out of the Digging Deeper Wran Consultancy Project.

The MSAC discussion paper includes a checklist as a guide for NSW mines to review their own safety schemes. While the council is seeking feedback on the usefulness of the checklist itself, it is also looking for feedback on experiences in reviewing the usefulness of safety incentive schemes and other safety incentive scheme checklists.

Feedback is due to MSAC by April 11 and can be made to

The checklist and discussion paper can be downloaded from