Do Safety Incentive Programs Really Work?

Ah, the question of the day for the safety professional. How do we motivate employees to safely execute their duties? Well, if I had the perfect answer, I wouldn’t be writing this BLOG, but retired on a golf course somewhere. However, I will offer these thoughts.

The bottom line is that incentives should encourage safe behaviors. After all, it is unsafe behaviors that cause the majority of injuries. What should not be encouraged is the covering up of incidents and close calls so that employees still get their “safety bonus.” Paying every employee a dollar amount at the end of a month, quarter or year simply because there were no reportable injuries is not likely the best program. The safety manager may never know if there truly were no injuries, or if they just weren’t reported. Covering up incidents, even those that don't lead to an injury, is counterproductive. 

That would lead us to think that bonuses or rewards given for positive safety activities might be a better choice. If a worker reports and controls a safety hazard, it may prevent an injury. Rewarding that behavior just may raise the awareness level of employees. If that happens, now you’re on to something. The incentive is not an entitlement—it’s a program that identifies desirable actions and encourages more of the same.

Incentives can be found in all industries in all forms. Bonuses, free merchandise, time off, “safety bucks,” picnics, gift cards, the list goes on. The key is to find a program that employees find engaging and logical—one that actually changes behaviors in positive ways. Sometimes a simple handshake is enough to do the trick. There are certainly times when a discipline program must be used, but rewarding safe behaviors is more effective.  

As a MEMIC policyholder you have access to the vast resources of MEMIC Safety Director. This includes a link to Business and Legal Reports (BLR) safety website. You can find volumes of information on safety incentive programs at BLR.