Feature Article - March/April 2019

Safety First

Structured Programs Help Meet Safety Goals

By Deborah L. Vence

Importance of Safety Incentives

Improving workplace safety may be the obvious answer as a reason for having safety incentives.

"More specifically, however, safety recognition programs should be built around driving the specific behaviors that create a safer work environment and help achieve the safety goals of the organization," Chrobak said. "These can vary from company to company, but some of the more common behaviors and goals include":

  • Participation in safety program activities and evaluations, such as safety walkthroughs.
  • Completion of safety and health training.
  • Identifying and reporting potential hazards and close calls/near misses.
  • Adhering to preventive maintenance schedules.
  • Compliance with posted workplace safety rules.

McEndree said that employees have come to expect to be rewarded for a variety of professional achievements or practices, including safety. "Having safety rewards available gives employees one more reason to follow smart safety practices, and promotes proactive behavior, like suggesting safety tips, identifying potential hazards and participating on safety committees," she said.

Improving workplace safety may be the obvious answer as a reason for having
safety incentives.

In addition, "some of our latest research found that 79 percent of employees want rewards programs, and 73 percent think rewards encourage engagement," she said. "Incentive programs can be a meaningful way to motivate and engage employees to take desired safety measures." (The research is from the "Efficacy of Employee Rewards," an online survey that was conducted independently by Murphy Research on behalf of Hawk Incentives between Jan. 29 and Feb. 7, 2018.)

What's more, psychological and monetary reasons exist for having safety incentives. "It shows management cares about individuals and their families. It will serve to reinforce your core values," Dolan said. "It creates and sustains a heightened awareness of 'staying safe.' Employees take note. They understand it's a management expectation."

Also, safety programs can assist in the recruiting process and help sway new talent to join the organization.

"Monetarily, it will keep costs down and hopefully improve efficiencies contributing to the bottom line. As for OSHA standards, it shows 'due diligence,'" he said.

Galonek suggested that a company's safety program truly is a collection of many different initiatives built around training, personal protective equipment (PPE), compliance and other objectives.

"That safety program should not be called 'safety program' any more than you should call your pet, 'dog,'" he said.

A crucial part of the success is putting a brand name on your safety program and communicating the brand.

"People respond positively to the brands they like. They understand the values of those brands, and they align with them in a way that compels behavior," Galonek said. "Putting a brand name on your safety program (your collection of safety initiatives) and finding many different vehicles to promote that brand will lead to much greater success. Nothing works better than a well-built safety recognition/rewards (incentive) program at creating and promoting your safety brand, and, therefore, it is a crucial part of success."

And, according to George Delta, Esq., the Incentive Federation's legal counsel and executive director, who has published the federation's position on safety incentive programs over the years, has said that "Effective safety programs play a critical role in reducing worker injuries, save money, and improve employee morale considerably.

"Employee injuries and illnesses cost employers in several respects: (a) lost productivity, (b) increased worker's compensation claims (and the corresponding increase in insurance premiums), (c) damaged equipment, (d) poor employee morale and retention, and (e) litigation. In several industries where injuries are common, for example, contracting, handling baggage, trucking, heavy manufacturing and chemical processing, the cost of injuries can be staggering," he said. "Even injuries from repetitive motions can keep employees off the job for significant periods of time, even though these types of injuries do not necessarily involve much exertion. Safety programs are an extremely effective means of reducing all types of workplace injuries. When they are implemented properly, they have a multitude of salutary effects."

He also has said that "Well-designed safety incentive programs would tend to emphasize safe conduct or behavior, and they would reward workers for individual rather than group conduct.

"Moreover, even behavior-based programs can and should lead to the reduction of workplace injuries, which is the ultimate goal of such programs. In contrast to rate-based programs, however, behavior-based safety programs that lead to the reduction of reportable injuries and illnesses are aimed at individuals, encourage safe conduct and practices and should foster open communication about safety issues and should encourage the reporting of injuries and illnesses. Like all other safety tools, safety achievement programs can certainly be misused," Delta said. "When programs are designed and used properly, however, they are extremely important in reducing workplace injuries. Any employer facility that tolerates the non-reporting of injuries is probably beyond the assistance of a safety incentive program. A program (and awards under that program) should never become more important than safety and respect for the well-being of an employee."