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Safety Incentives

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Do you want to put new life into your safety program? Do you want to create more awareness of and concern for safety? Do you want to provide greater employee safety focus? Do you want to reduce the number of accidents and associated costs? If you have answered yes to any or all of the above, you may wish to implement a safety incentive program. Incentives not only reward employees for following the rules, but they help to keep safety in the forefront of thought. The use of incentives is another tool to create more awareness of the need to be safe on the job. 

Before implementing safety incentives you should ensure that a basic safety program is already in place. Safety incentives should complement the other elements in your safety program including training, following safety rules, accident reporting, and hazard identification. Incentives should be based on leading indicators rather than trailing indicators (not having an accident). 

Safety incentives come in a variety of forms. Effective incentive programs are based on rewarding active effort-not just injury avoidance.  The idea is to create a motivation for employees to become more aware of their work environment, their coworkers, and to follow practices leading to safe behaviors. 

An incentive program does not have to be expensive. Costs vary depending on the size of your company, number of employees, and the type of incentive you have chosen. Some incentive programs are set up to reward an individual, some to reward a group. Others try to reward an individual and a group. Rewarding a group can help employees watch out for each other. This helps more employees become proactive in correcting potential hazards, unsafe conditions, and behaviors. The challenge comes in finding an incentive that works for you.

Some types of incentives include:

  • Trinkets like mugs, hats, shirts, etc.
  • Safety-related prizes such as fire extinguishers or first aid kits
  • Food (company-provided meals or desserts)
  • Monthly, quarterly, or annual bonus
  • Gift certificates
  • Prize drawings monthly, quarterly, or annually
  • Paid personal leave or paid time off
  • Recognition in newsletters and other company publications, and letters in employee files
  • Cash awards in varying amounts

Setting Up a Program
Define your goals to determine what you want to accomplish. Remember to focus on active safety efforts and leading indicators, such as safety suggestions, training attendance, hazard surveys, or near-miss reporting.  Remember not to penalize
employees who report accidents, as this is prohibited by OSHA. Set measurable goals that are challenging, yet feasible. Find your baseline and go from there, setting specific numbers and putting your goals in writing. Solicit input by asking employees for suggestions and ideas. This helps sell the program to those who most impact safety. 

E. Scott Geller suggests structuring an incentive program by:

  • Outlining the goals required to earn the safety incentive. Goals should be reachable.
  • Rewarding everyone who meets the goal.
  • Rewarding many participants with small awards rather than one big award for one person.
  • Displaying rewards to show safety accomplishment. Objects used for incentives should display a safety message and be available to be used and seen.
  • Not rewarding one group at the expense of another.
  • Not penalizing groups for failure by an individual.
  • Monitoring progress and communicating results for all participants.

Publicizing Your Program
After the incentive program is developed, pick a start date and inform the participants, in advance. Use the start date to re-emphasize the commitment to safety. Periodically review results and let participants know what is happening in efforts to reach goals. Make adjustments to help reach accident-reduction and cost-cutting goals as necessary. Keep in mind that reviewing a program’s progress is important. If there is little or no change, you may want to change the program to help reach success.


Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
(385) 351-8103

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NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes, or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes, or standards.

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