Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Designing Safety Incentive Programs that Work

If done correctly, safety incentive programs can help motivate employees to be proactive about safety. However, if designed and implement incorrectly, incentive programs can lead to underreporting and OSHA violations.

During a presentation at the 27th Annual Chicagoland Safety and Environmental Conference, Jerry Van Oort, CEO of intRAtrain and inspectiTRAC by Russell Associates, shared some the challenges associated with safety incentive programs and provided insight on how to design and conduct highly effective safety incentive programs that motivate workers to not only be proactive but also take ownership of all aspects of safety.

Although OSHA has no regulations specifically covering safety incentive programs, the agency has issued citations for incentive programs that discourage reporting or reward employees for not reporting incidents/injures. According to Oort, avoiding citations begins with planning. Instead of opting for a passive safety incentive program, which requires no direct action from employees and rewards employees based on a specific number of incident-free hours—which has been shown to lead to underreporting—Oort encourages employers to implement a proactive safety incentive program. Proactive programs are designed to motivate employees to be actively involved in all aspects of safety, encouraging a “safety first” attitude.

According to Oort, incentive programs affect safety cultures by giving employees a reason to change behaviors. In lieu of rewarding employees for periods of time without injuries, proactive incentive safety programs reward employees for things like making safety suggestions, identifying and/or correcting hazards, participating in wellness programs or serving on a safety committee/task force.

Proactive safety incentive programs do require more work and planning and may require expert assistance, Oort continued, but they also offer a greater return. In addition to a reduction in injuries and illness, these programs can accomplish specific goals, encourage involvement and produce positive cultural changes.

Incentive programs work well in many other areas of business. To create a culture that encourages safer work practices without discouraging reporting, Oort suggests emphasizes being proactive. To achieve a proactive safety incentive program employers can incorporate the following recommendations:
  • Include employees in the design process. 
  • Design programs to achieve specific goals. 
  • Ensure that leaders support the program and remain actively engaged.
  • Use ample, but sincere, praise and recognition.
  • Reward with a selection of merchandise, not cash or gift certificates.
  • Use a points-based system.
  • Reward employees for achieving goals. 
  • Set budget, a minimum of about $120 to $200 per employee per year is appropriate.