By: Shawn Shivers II

Can workplace safety incentive programs do more harm than good?  Or is the better question, are your workplace safety incentive programs causing more harm than good?  Do you think an organization should have cash based bonus programs or take the traditional approach? Can one proclaim that incentive programs should be based on industry? These are not meant to be rhetorical questions, and do require some thought before answering.  This article will discuss tips on how to make your safety incentive program a successful one and shed light on why your program could be one that fails.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “OSHA neither approves nor disapproves the design or the effectiveness of safety incentive programs. However, we do not look favorably on safety incentive programs which encourage under reporting of workplace injury (OSHA, March 2000).”  With that said, there are numerous ways in which you can base your safety incentive program.  Whether or not your program will sink or swim lies in the details.  An organization has many options when it comes to they’re safety menu.  Let’s ponder some appetizers for success.

First, you should never take the cookie cutter approach when implementing your safety incentive program.  Always structure your incentive program with the same diligence as other program components.  Next, make incentives part of a strong overall safety program supported by management.  Management backing illustrates their buy-in and support of company safety.  Lastly, give your employees ownership.  This is as simple as setting realistic goals that can be measured and are acceptable to both management and workers.  Abiding by each of these steps will ensure success in your safety incentive program; however, I must offer you some distasteful menu items that can fail your program.

Furthermore, putting into action a program that does not obligate any change in existing processes or procedures can hinder employee attitudes towards safety.  To those outside of management this might be viewed as having another program to meet quota or leave paper trails.  Therefore, programs that use incentives to deflect away from real issues will always fail.  Don’t reward the wrong type of behavior by not weeding out the “bad actors”.  This is the last thing you want your program to consist of. After all, the purpose is to encourage good behavior in the long run by rewarding it in the present.  Finally, evade safety incentive programs premised on assumptions related to the first problem – unsafe acts.  If you consider your safety incentive program anything like those that fail, on no account will you ever fix your safety issues.

All in all, a company’s safety menu has an assortment of items that may well be included.  What makes the list is all up to you.  Just keep in mind that your program should be strong and well planned.  Taking the cookie cutter approach can lead to an increased incident rate.  No matter the industry give your employees ownership, as this creates a supportive work atmosphere.  Remember, when implementing your workplace safety incentive program simply stop and consider…is it going to do more harm than good?