Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Truth about Safety Incentives

Getting the right safety incentive program ...

"What does it take to motivate employees to work safe?

One of the great debates in workplace safety today is the role of incentives. Two philosophies seem to exist. One says that workers will not work safe unless we give them incentives to do so. The other says that incentives should not be required for workers to do their jobs without injury.

Interestingly, safety and operational supervisors, managers, and directors who are working hard to find a way to focus employees on reducing injuries fuel the debate.
The Problem with Most Incentive Programs

The biggest problem with safety incentive programs is that they do not work the way people expect them to. Programs that reward employees with monetary or tangible rewards for an expected level of performance can be challenging when it comes to safety. The reason is this: They tend to cause under-reporting, particularly when the performance is related to lagging indicators like reduced incidents or severity rates. Managers and employees alike confirm this, no matter the industry.

People tend to focus on the reward rather than the outcome of going home every day without an injury. Under-reporting causes information to be buried, which can lead to dangerous behaviors or hazardous situations not being properly addressed.

Sure, there are examples of how incentive programs have helped organizations turn their safety performance from negative to positive. This may be the case for the short term, but over a period of time, safety incentive programs can become:

* Ineffective – They lose their appeal to employees and it becomes too much work to keep up with the required paperwork.
* Entitlements – Employees come to expect the incentive no matter what the outcomes are, particularly when monetary rewards are involved.
* Routine – When the program remains the same year after year, people don’t really pay attention to the expectations and the rewards.
* Punitive – When group rewards are part of the program, employees can be very punitive to one another when an incident occurs that “messes up” the reward.
* Irrelevant – Often employees do not see why their company leaders think they have to pay them to work safe. After all, isn’t safe work behavior part of the job?

Think about other problems you’ve seen in your own company. What’s going on with your incentive program if you have one? It may be time to consider a different approach."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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