15 Essential Elements For An Effective Safety Incentive Program

24 Developing and implementing a successful safety incentive program is no easy task. It requires the inclusion of any number of elements.

The best methods will encourage safe behavior, team-work and hazard recognition, while at the same time discouraging non-reporting of legitimate accidents and fraudulent or frivolous claims.

Finding the right balance is the key to building healthy safety awareness among a workforce, and maintaining a high level of participation for the long term. Eliminating claims and preventable accidents is the inevitable result of a well-planned safety incentive program that integrates easily with a company's overall safety emphasis.

The following elements have proven successful for thousands of companies using the Safety Pays Workplace Incentive Program. We suggest giving your own incentive program a check-up to determine how it measures up against a professionally designed program such as Safety Pays.

  1. Is it rewarding? The best kind of incentive program provides direct linkage between the goal (fewer accidental injuries) and the reward. The rewards provided must have a direct and immediate appeal to the targeted employees. "Bait the hook to suit the fish," as we say in the seafood business. While cash tends to be the most universally appealing reward, if you are unsure of what your employees want, ask them.
  2. Is it entertaining? Company rules and policies exist to dictate an employee's behavior (what the workers must do to keep their jobs). An incentive program is designed to impact attitude (what the workers want to do). The incentive program itself must be something the employees enjoy and want to participate in on an ongoing basis. The best way to do this is by making it a "game" that is familiar to all the workers, and which will fairly distribute the rewards which are available due to workforce success in avoiding accidents and injuries.
  3. Is it easy to understand? An employee incentive program must be clear, concise and easy for employees to understand. This is not to say a company cannot integrate a number of loss prevention goals into one program. Just make sure the employees understand the goals and what their role will be in achieving the goals. It is best to have instructions in writing, then review them with workers, giving them an opportunity to ask questions and get needed clarification.
  4. Does it provide a daily reminder to be safe? It is human nature to be enthusiastic about something at first, then to lose interest as time goes by. An effective safety incentive program must incorporate a "daily dynamic," to maintain a high level of employee involvement. The best way to do this is to allow the incentive rewards to grow as each consecutive accident/injury free day goes by in order to promote greater employee attention and interest.
  5. Does it generate healthy peer group pressure? One of the strongest motivators involves tying individual rewards to group success. This puts the workforce on notice that they are "in this together," with larger rewards available to individual workers to the extent that they succeed as a group in avoiding accidents and injuries.
  6. Is it visual? The secret to preventing accidents and injuries is through enhanced employee awareness. An incentive program that can regularly be seen and touched will serve as a constant reminder that so long as the employees work safely. Make them bright, colorful, attention-getting, and place them in a conspicuous location.
  7. Is your incentive program flexible? An incentive which provides for changes, additions and/or modifications gives management the latitude to keep it fresh. It also will allow management the creative freedom to add new rewards for unexpected achievement. For example, should a company set a new record in accident/injury free days, a flexible design would allow management to incorporate immediate "surprise" incentives into existing rewards. Flexibility also gives management the opportunity to target new safety concerns as they develop.
  8. Does it adequately provide recognition for both group and individual achievement? Although people respond to tangible rewards, they also want and need recognition, particularly in a work environment. An incentive program must incorporate methods to acknowledge both group and individual success in maintaining a good safety record. Name recognition of the successful parties posted in a common area is always a successful technique. Announcing employee contributions and ideas is another powerful incentive.
  9. Is it easy to administer? All too often good ideas fall apart in their execution. Make sure that your employee incentive program incorporates an effective set of administrative tools to keep track of employee participation, and the various elements of the program. A "user-friendly" approach insures the program's supervisor need only devote a minimal amount of time to program administration and supervision. Maintaining good administrative records avoids potential confusion and allows fairness.
  10. Does it support rules enforcement? As in any game, an effective safety incentive program must have penalties as well as rewards. To insure employee compliance with a company's safety regulations, make sure the incentive program provides for the elimination of any participant who violates company rules. Be sure, though, to do it in a way that is corrective, not punitive. Allow the disqualified employee to opportunity for reinstatement after a probationary period (not more than 30 days) by adhering to the company's safety guidelines.
  11. Does it promote employee accountability? Unfortunately, too often in today's work environment, there is a tendency for employees to avoid responsibility for their behavior. As a result, unscrupulous individuals will attempt to take advantage of the workers' comp system simply because they can get away with it. A signed certification by each employee that they have not been injured at work for a given period of time, and updating this certification on a regular basis is one powerful method.
  12. Does it encourage individual employee initiative? One way to do this is to provide bonus reward eligibility for those employees who make good safety suggestions, or who bring important information to the attention of management. Another way is to provide bonus rewards for those employees observed by management doing something particularly safe or helpful to another employee in assuring that employee's safety.
  13. Does the incentive program provide for some means of hazard communication so the employee will know what to watch out for? In addition, a company's employees are the very best source for uncovering safety problems. Therefore, an incentive program should not only provide a means of on-going hazard communication but it should also make available some sort of bonus mechanism to encourage employees to come forward with any information to improve workplace safety.
  14. Does it foster Management/Employee Cooperation? An incentive program which is too rigid or rules oriented can fail. An incentive program is not there to enforce better behavior. It's there to encourage improved behavior by changing the way a worker thinks. Therefore, within the context of the incentive program, whenever a "grey" area comes up, the decision should always be whatever the employees would want. So, when the opportunity comes up to make a judgment call, make it on behalf of the workforce. Doing so will only encourage their efforts to cooperate with management that much more.
  15. Can the program be expanded to embrace other employee-related issues? The well thought-out incentive plan should be able to accommodate a growing workforce as a Company gets larger. Moreover, it should also have the ability to produce motivational results for other human resource problems besides safety such as absenteeism, productivity, customer service, quality control, tardiness...anything to allow the company and its workers to become more effective as an organization since team success breeds a safety working environment.

One might ask, "Can an employee incentive program be successful if it does not incorporate all the elements listed above?" Many company managers report success with rewards as limited as quarterly bonuses for individuals or team members who have no accidents.

Certainly some reward is better than none. But all or nothing one-dimensional safety incentives such as periodic safety rewards rarely have the beneficial impact a fully integrated safety incentive system has. Consider the many success stories from long-term users of the Safety Pays program – which has so effectively incorporated all of these “essential elements”.

So with the potential losses every company has at stake, the inevitable question is: Why not be as comprehensive as possible to insure the greatest possible results? Running an effective safety program without a comprehensive set of incentives is akin to driving a finely engineered car without gas. It is unlikely one can get very far, much less even get the engine to start!

The rule of thumb is simple. If you haven't implemented safety incentives as part of your overall safety strategy, you're missing a critical element to assured loss control success. If you do have incentives, ask yourself the extent to which they meet the criteria set forth in this article. The extent to which your safety incentive program incorporates these elements will correspondingly match the level of success you can achieve in the ultimate goal of eliminating on-the-job accidents and injuries.