As estimated by the International Labor Organization (ILO), over two million employees are victims of work-related safety incidents each year — which translates roughly to 6000 workplace deaths every single day.
Needless to say, safety at work should be prioritized and improved. A big part of this is encouraging employees to be more mindful of their safety, which can be difficult to do without proper incentive.
One way to encourage employees to be more safety-conscious is through the use of safety incentive programs. This article will explore the effectiveness of these programs in improving productivity.
What are safety incentive programs?
It’s no great secret that workplace health and safety can be a boring topic for employees. After all, who wants to think about getting injured or worse while on the job? WHS learning modules can also be repetitive and seemingly irrelevant to the tasks at hand.
This is where safety incentive programs can come in to help improve productivity. They are designed to encourage employees to take greater ownership of their own safety, as well as that of their co-workers. Incentives can be financial (such as bonuses or prizes) or non-financial (such as public recognition or special privileges).
For example, a company might offer a financial incentive for employees who complete a WHS learning module in a certain amount of time. Or, they might give employees who have no safety incidents for a certain period of time a bonus or special privilege, like an extra day off work.
The benefits of using a safety incentive program
There are many benefits of using a safety incentive program, including:
Reduced injuries and illnesses
When employees are made aware of the consequences of unsafe behavior, they are less likely to engage in risky activities. This means fewer injuries and illnesses, which translates into lower costs and improved productivity.
A safety incentive program can help to improve morale by recognizing employees for their safe behavior. This can lead to a more positive work environment and increased productivity.
A safety incentive program can help to increase compliance with safety rules and regulations. When employees know that their behavior is being monitored and that they may be rewarded for safe behavior, they are more likely to comply with safety guidelines.
It may seem strange to equate safety with productivity, but if your team isn’t getting injured, it means they are able to complete their work more quickly and safely. Implementing a safety incentive program is one way to improve your team’s productivity.
Different types of safety incentive programs
When it comes to safety incentive programs, there are two main types that can be utilized in order to improve productivity.
1. Positive reinforcement program
This type of program rewards employees for completing safe tasks and complying with safety regulations. Employees can receive recognition in the form of verbal praise, a bonus, or public acknowledgment.
For example: your company might have a policy that requires all employees to wear safety goggles when working with hazardous materials. If an employee is caught not wearing safety goggles, they might be given a verbal warning. However, if an employee is caught wearing their safety goggles, they might be given verbal praise or a bonus.
2. Penalty program
The next type is a penalty program, which punishes employees for not following safety regulations. This type of program is often used as a last resort, after other methods, such as positive reinforcement, have failed.
For example: if one of your colleagues continues to not wear their safety goggles while working with hazardous materials, they might be given a written warning. If the behavior continues, they might be given a suspension or even fired.
Which is best?
Positive reinforcement is always better as an incentive for learning because penalties create negative undertones and may deter employees from participating further in workplace safety practices.
However, there are times when a penalty will be necessary to ground employees in reality and motivate them to comply with safety regulations. In these cases, the penalty should be proportional to the offense and accompanied by a sincere effort on the part of management to correct the problem.
Developing your incentive program
When developing or modifying a safety incentive program, employers should keep in mind four basic principles.
- Employees should be rewarded for making safe choices, not just for avoiding injuries.
- The rewards should be meaningful and motivating to employees.
- The program should be easy to understand and administer.
- Program goals should be aligned with the organization’s overall safety objectives.
With those in mind, employers can then follow these simple steps in order to develop a functional safety incentive plan:
1. Choose the incentive.
Types of rewards that can be used in safety incentive programs include:
- Cash bonuses.
- Time off from work, such as a paid day off or an extra day off for working safely.
- Prizes, such as gift cards, merchandise, or tickets to a sporting event or concert.
- Recognition, such as a plaque or certificate of appreciation.
Employers should also keep in mind that not all employees are motivated by the same rewards. Some employees may prefer cash bonuses, while others may prefer time off from work. Your employees may appreciate recognition more than a tangible prize.
2. Tailor the program to suit your employees.
When developing or modifying a safety incentive program, employers should tailor their safety incentive programs to meet the needs of their individual workforce. Every workplace is different, so you may find that some incentive programs work better than others for your particular business.
Consider the following as you plan your program:
- The safety record of the company and its employees
- The type of work performed by employees
- The length of time employees have worked for the company
- The age and experience of employees
- Employee benefits
- Company culture
3. Set the parameters.
Once you’ve chosen the incentive, it’s time to plan how it will be applied. What is your criteria for awarding the incentive?
For example, some criteria might be:
- When all employees complete their WHS modules within a determined time frame
- Whoever completes their training modules first
- Employees who consistently wear their PPE in the appropriate areas
Once the incentive program has been developed, employers should communicate it to all employees. Employees should understand what is expected of them and how they can earn rewards.
The rules need to be clear so that your employees are all on board with the incentive program. Otherwise, you may find that no one takes your program seriously enough to compete for the incentive.
Implementing your safety incentive program
Once your safety incentive program is designed, the next step is to ensure that it is effectively implemented throughout your business. To do this, you will need to:
- Appoint a safety incentive program coordinator. This individual will be responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the program and ensuring that it remains effective.
- Educate employees about the program and its benefits. Make sure everyone understands what is expected of them and how they can participate in the program.
- Set up a system for tracking safety performance. This will help you to identify employees who are performing well and those who need improvement.
- Reward employees who demonstrate safe behavior. Recognize their efforts with incentives such as cash bonuses, gift cards, or special privileges.
- Monitor the program regularly and make necessary adjustments as needed. The goal is to ensure that the program continues to be effective in promoting safe behavior among employees.
Safety incentive program examples
If you are interested in implementing your own safety incentive program for better productivity but you’re short on ideas, here is a list of examples you can use to incentivize safety at your workplace:
- Double lunch pass: if all of your employees complete their safety modules on time, give them an extra hour for each lunch break during that week.
- Safety points system: have your employees report any safety issues they witness. Every time they report something, their safety points balance goes up, and they can eventually trade those points in for other prizes arranged by you.
- Gift cards and vouchers: if you want to add some competition to the program, have your employees compete for who can get their safety training completed first with all correct answers. The winner can choose between a range of gift cards and vouchers as their prize.
Regardless of the incentive you choose, make sure that everyone knows what the rules are and keep things light and positive.
Workplace health and safety can be boring at the best of times, but it’s a necessary part of any business. However, there are ways to improve workplace safety and productivity by using incentive programs.
When it comes to workplace safety, it’s important to find ways to encourage employees to take safety seriously. Financial incentives and other rewards can be a great way to do this, and can improve workplace productivity in the process.