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Enhance Your Company’s Safety Culture with a Safety Incentive Program

Monday, May 2, 2016   (0 Comments)
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By Timothy K. Michels, Esq., Chief Operations Officer, Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company.

While a safety incentive program is not a substitute for poor safety management, an effective incentive program can help transform good safety management into great safety management for your company.

One of the most effective—and least costly—safety incentives is management’s awareness, acknowledgement, and recognition of an employee’s good safety performance—especially when that recognition is witnessed by the employee’s peers.


Observation and Recognition

Recognition can be as simple as complimenting a worker for wearing a hard hat in a situation where overhead dangers are present, or recognizing an employee for using guards on dangerous equipment. A manager’s immediate observation and recognition of a job done safely goes a long way. What’s more, a sincere pat on the back costs nothing.

Recognition of safe work practices is especially important following an accident. Once the injured worker has been treated, revisit the scene of the accident. Without getting injured, try to simulate the actions—or lack thereof—that led up to the accident. If the accident was witnessed by the employee’s co-workers, solicit their ideas on engineering controls that could reduce or eliminate a specific hazard. If operator error contributed to the accident, solicit ideas as to how prevention techniques can help prevent similar accidents in the future. The most effective safety incentives are timely and positive. Also consider incorporating safety into employees’ performance evaluations every year.


Leading Indicators

Successful safety programs focus on and reward employees more on the front end rather than on the back end of safety results. Front-end results, also known as “leading indicators”, include specific safety activities to prevent accidents. Activities can include: participating in a safety committee, achieving good results on safety inspections, and adhering to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) policies. Other important examples include reporting unsafe working conditions and near-miss accidents to management.

Back-end results, also known as “lagging” or “post-loss indicators”, include tracking the number of accidents per quarter, number of lost work day accidents, and/or number of accidents involving particular individuals or departments.


Goals, Awareness and Motivation

Before beginning a safety incentive program, define goals, and consider long-term, meaningful incentives. A successful safety incentive program will raise employees’ awareness of safety issues without creating an environment in which employees feel the need to hide accidents for fear of losing out on an award or incentive prize.

An incentive can be any item that employees perceive as valuable. However, if the stakes are too high and involve big-ticket items the fear of losing out on such valuable items could cause some employees to hide accidents, falsify pre-loss safety prevention activities, or fail to report them in the first place; undermining all efforts to create a safer work environment.

Don’t over-reward individual performance while under-rewarding or ignoring the combined efforts of a department or team. Safety performance is a collaborative effort involving all departments. For any incentive program to work, incentives must be distributed fairly across all departments.

Raising and promoting the level of safety awareness in your organization, generating safety suggestions, and recognizing your employees for safe behaviors are some key aspects of an effective safety incentive program. Place the emphasis on motivating people rather than giving awards.

Good incentive programs often result in employees establishing or strengthening good work habits, which ultimately prevent accidents and help save money on the bottom line.

Timothy K. Michels, Esq., is the Chief Operations Officer of Chesapeake Employers’ Insurance Company (, the largest writer of workers’ compensation insurance in Maryland. This information and any noted recommendations are advisory only.

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