Friday, August 17, 2007

Incentives Small Investments Equal Big Rewards

Positive reinforcement yields best safety results ...

"The risk of injury, death or expensive insurance claims should be enough to ensure workers and companies practice safe procedures in the workplace. But since it is not, other programs have been developed to make sure employees go home at night the same way they got to work that day.

Employers often turn to recognition or safety incentive programs to encourage and reward safe work behaviors. The idea is to give workers not just praise, but tangible rewards to encourage them to remain safe on the job. This is idea is supported by Jerry Bach, vice president of Sacramento, Calif.-based Safety Center Inc. He says employees remember getting positive reinforcement more than they remember the negative, like getting into trouble and being disciplined. “It is better to give incentives than to have to discipline employees,” Bach says. “Positive reinforcement takes you much further than discipline. Do not give just a pat on the back, but give a $20 gift card to a store. It is better than the $120,000 workers’ compensation claim you are likely to receive on behalf of an employee who was not following the safety rules.” And that is the idea: A small investment in prizes and rewards for employees made by companies is much cheaper than an employee not following safety instructions, becoming injured and hitting the company with a large insurance claim or, worse yet, a lawsuit. “Incentive programs are fun, do not cost much money to implement and are much better than the alternative,” Bach says. “They are also much better than threatening an employee constantly with negative consequences if he or she is not following the safety rules. Nobody likes to be nagged like that, whether or not they are doing the wrong thing. In fact, it will probably just make the problem worse.”

Program Rules

Stan Smith, a vice president with CA Short Co. in Benicia, Calif., a supplier of safety incentive programs, agrees with Bach. Smith adds there are some rules that should be followed when implementing an incentive program for safety. “The program that will work best will have simple and well-defined rules,” Smith says. “It will be of an accrued nature, so workers can choose the gift on their own.” He adds the longer it takes for employees to earn rewards, the more likely they are to lose interest. He suggests that programs offer rewards every 30 days or so. In addition, Bach suggests changing the focus of the safety recognition or incentive program every so often. “It is good to have a lot of variety with the incentives,” he says."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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