Safety Culture and Behavioral Safety

Safety Incentives: Yea? Or Nay? Nay!

Yesterday we looked at the case for using incentives to bolster safety in the workplace. Today we look at arguments against safety- incentive programs, and at the foundation of workplace safety—safety attitude.

The OSHA Compliance Advisor, a twice-monthly newsletter produced by BLR, took a comprehensive look at the cases for and against safety incentive programs. Here are some of the arguments against them.

“The biggest problem with safety-incentive programs is that they do not work the way people expect them to,” said Dr. Deb Potter, who, along with her husband Carl, leads Potter and Associates. She works closely with employees of client companies and hears a great deal out on the shop floor.

“One thing we hear is that when incentive programs are in place, employees get very angry at each other when one of their peers experiences an incident that leads to an injury and the safety bonus goes away,” she said.

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What’s more, she’s found that employees often resent being paid to work safely.

“I was consulting with an electric utility last year and I did a lot of one-on-one interviewing,” says Potter. “I was surprised at how many people did not like the safety-incentive program. One gentleman said, ‘You can’t pay me to be safe, but you can train me to be safe.’ “

The Potters highlight several other downsides of safety incentives, including the following:

  • People tend to focus more on the reward than on the outcome.
  • Programs lose their appeal over time, and keeping up with the paperwork becomes overwhelming for management.
  • Employees feel entitled to the incentive despite the outcomes.
  • Some companies consider incentive programs a substitute for good management. Managers take the lazy way out when they implement a program and avoid getting directly involved in basics like training and hazard identification.

Instead of a Prize … Recognize!

These and other shortcomings suggest a better way to acknowledge employee safety performance. The Potters and others favor recognition over incentives.

Rather than the prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach in most safety-incentive programs, recognition is much more personal, they say.
Instead of trying to “buy” employee commitment to safety through incentives, they encourage techniques that encourage workers to take personal responsibility for safety, supported by individual recognition.

Whether your organization uses incentive programs or recognition programs, the goal is the same—to reduce accidents and injuries by keeping safety top of mind among your workers. Safety attitude, experts agree, is the key to a safe workplace.

BLR’s Safety Meetings Library says you should train employees to stay alert to—and report—accidents, near misses, and unsafe acts and conditions that they experience or notice on the job. Tell them that management may not know about them and won’t be able to correct them and improve the prospects for everyone’s safety.

Safety Meetings Library includes 10 meetings on various aspects of safety attitude. All told, the CD-ROM provides you with more than 400 ready-to-train meetings on more than 100 key safety topics. The in-depth meeting outlines are supplemented with quizzes and handouts, as well as with regulations (OSHA’s CFR 29), a listing of the most common safety violations cited by OSHA, and case studies of actual OSHA cases and their outcomes.

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Safety Meetings Library lets you choose from a variety of training approaches, including:

Mandatory – Sessions that are OSHA required
Comprehensive – Sessions with broadest coverage of a topic
7-Minute – Short, simple, targeted sessions to fit tight schedules
Initial – A session used as introductory training on a topic
Refresher – Sessions that follow up on or reinforce previous training
Tool Box Talks – More informal reinforcement of a topic
PowerPoint® – Graphic presentations for comprehensive initial or refresher training

Hands-on – A session in which there are training activities
Spanish – Including Spanish language handouts and quizzes coordinated with English sessions

You can get a preview of the program by using the links below. But for the best look, we suggest a no-cost, no-obligation trial. Just let us know and we’ll arrange it for you.

Download document type list
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