How to create an effective safety incentive program

Matt Olphin Risk Management

Safety incentive programs have come a long way in the past few decades, at least for many organizations. Rather than simply having that big board in the main operating facility that shows how many days it has been since an accident occurred, and rewarding employees for achieving an arbitrary goal, companies now create more robust programs to engage employees in safety-related matters.

Establishing an effective incentive program can be difficult in certain situations, especially as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For this reason, we will begin the conversation with the types of safety incentive programs that should not be in place at any business.

Frowned-upon Approaches
OSHA appears to be most displeased with what were once the most common forms of safety incentive programs. These setups would generally be defined as ones that reward employees, departments, or locations if they go a certain number of days without an accident. The problem with these programs is that they are outcome-oriented and can lead to relatively strange and subversive problems.

For example, what happens if a work-related injury occurs but the staff members do not want to report it out of fear that they will lose their bonuses?

Believe it or not, those problems did pop up often and can lead to significant OSHA liability. OSHA’s act of raising those concerns did have a palpable impact on organizations in a relatively short period of time, as we see far fewer reactive programs. Some plans are still steeped in the past, of course, but others are forward-thinking.

Regardless, everyone needs to be on board with the current philosophy of proactive, engaging and intelligent incentives.

What kind of incentive programs does your company leverage?What kind of incentive programs does your company have in place?

A more engaging approach
The more progressive incentive programs tend to be more flexible and focus on voluntary efforts among employees. For example, when a staff member identifies a potential hazard, that employee receives some kind of reward. This system is a great first element to one of these programs because it immediately engages employees in the effort to make the workplace safer.

What’s more, employers offer incentives for attending or leading meetings related to safety programs, which flips the script on the classic issue of employees being bored and disengaged in safety training.

These steps also create a certain level of structure within the program because employees now have methods to earn rewards, not just have them taken away. These proactive approaches are still emerging so we have to wait and see how much of an effect they have when compared to the outcome-oriented programs of the past.

The more involved employees are in the safety culture, the better these programs will work. So rather than taking a retaliatory or reactionary approach to incentives, businesses that adapt to these new thought processes that reward proactive efforts by engaged employees will likely achieve safer working environments.

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