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When employees get hurt on the job, companies lose money to workers’ compensation, medical expenses and liability claims. Other extraordinary costs stem from lost productivity, accident investigations, repairs of damaged equipment and the time required to find and implement process controls to prevent problems from recurring. But safety at work depends as much on the employees as it does on management. Safety incentive programs promote safe work habits and encourage teamwork in recognizing and reporting hazards in the workplace.
Communications and Training
Give employees an incentive to pay attention. Make communications and training sessions about safe work habits visually appealing, easy to understand and -- when possible -- entertaining. Look online for cartoons and poster ideas to get employees to take notice and for games that target safety concepts. Give employees award points and certificates for participating. Allow employees to convert award points to things like gift cards and lunches.
Give financial incentives based on safety behaviors rather than safety results. Bonus programs that award employees for things like a reduction in on-the-job accidents could backfire, causing employees to withhold reporting of incidents. Focus financial rewards on criteria such as the number of employees actively participating in safety training and programs, the number of process improvement suggestions focused on workplace safety or other factors that promote safe habits and the reporting of recognized hazards.
Provide company-wide milestone rewards. Give employees the opportunity to work toward and look forward to seasonal barbecues, pizza parties or team-building events. These events reward teamwork rather than competition. Milestone rewards celebrate meeting targets and encourage employees to maintain their commitment to the program. Target ideas can include reaching 100 percent employee participation in safety training sessions or meeting goals for reporting safety concerns.
Reward teams for actively improving workplace safety through friendly competition. Invite teams to report on risks they've recognized, what they've done to eliminate or minimize the risk and how they've measured the success of their efforts. Quantify the success of each team’s project by awarding points for innovation, creativity and tangible, verifiable results. First prize awards can involve extra vacation days, pizza parties or merchandise. Also provide awards to every team for participating, because every project helps to make the workplace safer.
- OSHA: Business Case for Safety and Health
- Safety Pays: 15 Essential Elements for an Effective Safety Incentive Program
- Workplace Safety Experts: Hazard Recognition -- Workplace Safety Games
- Occupational Health and Safety: Tangible Incentive Programs Improve Safety Results
- McAfee & Taft: OSHA Sharpens Focus on Employer Safety Incentives and Disincentives
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.
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