Is Your Safety Incentive Program Discouraging?

Workers having safety meeting

Your organization has decided to start a safety incentive program to try to reduce the number of injuries occurring within your facility. You agree that safety incentive programs can be successful, but where do you begin?

The first thing that employers should consider is that you do not want to create an incentive program that discourages employees from reporting injuries. First of all, this is not good for the health and safety of your employees and, second, OSHA has specifically stated that employers cannot create incentive programs that would “deter or discourage an employee from reporting an injury or illness”.

An example of a “disincentive” program would be one where employees or work crews are rewarded for not having any reported injuries within a certain period of time. If an injury is reported, the employee or crew would lose their “incentive” until the next time interval is completed. This type of program would put undue pressure on employees not to report injuries to gain their own incentive or to keep other employees from losing theirs.

To prevent or reduce the likelihood of employee injuries, proper incentive program should focus on the “leading indicators” of safety and not the results, or “lagging indicators.” Leading indicators are behaviors and actions that may lead to incidents. Lagging indicators, on the other hand, tend to focus on the number of injuries that have occurred with no reward for “trying to do the right thing.”

A good example of leading versus lagging indicators is having an incentive program for weight loss. Leading indicators would be eating correctly, exercising, and attending group sessions. Lagging indicators would only measure the person’s weight loss and disregard all the efforts the individual made to meet their weight goal.

When applied to safety, leading indicators could be an employee’s attendance or participation in safety meetings, recognizing and reporting workplace hazards, or not violating facility safety rules. Lagging indicators might be tracking the number of reported injuries or costs incurred because of injuries. While these lagging indicators are important in tracking the success of your incentive program, they should not be the basis of your program.

If employees are encouraged to “do the right thing” when it comes to safety, including reporting injuries, your organization will benefit as much as your employees.

For more information refer to these previous MEMIC blogs:

MEMIC policy holders have access to additional information on the Safety Director including “Improve Your Safety Program” and “7 Steps to a Safer Workplace”.