Special Topics in Safety Management

Safety Incentive Program “Do’s”

When you’re trying to motivate workers, it makes perfect sense to use both carrots and sticks—right? Unfortunately, when it comes to safety, the most obvious “carrot”—an incentive program that rewards workers for working safely—can easily go wrong. For example, rewarding a team of workers for not having any reportable accidents can result in the workers using their promised incentive as a “stick” to discourage team members from reporting work-related injuries—in violation of OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements.

So how can you design a carrot that works properly, motivating workers to be safe without inadvertently undermining your safety program? Keep reading for some safety incentive program “do’s.”

Do: Create a Strong Safety Program

A program to reward workers for working safely is unlikely to be successful in a workplace with uncontrolled hazards and a culture that values production or cost cutting over worker safety. Therefore, the first investment you make in safety should not be an incentive program—instead, make sure you first put in place a safety program that includes:

  • Engineered hazard controls. Install machine guards. Remove hazardous chemicals from the workplace wherever possible. And make sure fire extinguishers, emergency eyewashes, adequate ventilation, and other hazard controls are in place. These types of controls offer a lot more “bang for your buck” when it comes to reducing accidents than an incentive program in a workplace full of uncontrolled hazards.
  • Safe work practices. It’s far more difficult for employees to work safely if they have no direct guidance. For all operations that pose a hazard, outline in writing what workers need to do to stay safe.


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  • Safety equipment. Without the right equipment, workers can’t stay safe. The right tool for the job, the right equipment to monitor for hazards, and the right personal protective equipment make safe work possible.
  • Training. The measures above will be wasted if workers don’t understand how they function to protect them. Workers can bypass machine guards, ignore safe work practices, and forget to wear their gear—but with proper training, they’ll at least know why they shouldn’t.

Once you have an effective safety program in place, well-designed incentives can encourage worker compliance. But what exactly is a “well-designed incentive”?

Do: Reward Safety

The key to a well-designed incentive program is to reward the right things—actions that enhance workplace safety—without rewarding behavior that suppresses injury reporting. Effective incentive programs use one or more of these strategies:

Reward safety initiative. Workers who actively make the workplace safer should be rewarded. They may do this by:

  • Participating on safety committees;
  • Completing safety training programs; and
  • Suggesting successful workplace safety improvements.


When an organization does not balance safety, quality, and production objectives, the likelihood of success in any of these areas is likely low. Click here to learn more!


Reward safety success. Reward employees and teams that successfully achieve safety-related goals like:

  • Achieving 100 percent compliance with safe work practices and procedures; and
  • Passing safety inspections and audits.

Reward safety in action. Catch workers doing something good, and reinforce the behavior by rewarding it right away. Examples could include:

  • A team of workers who carefully follow confined space entry, lockout/tagout, or other safety procedures; or
  • Individual workers who correctly use and maintain their safety gear.

Tune in tomorrow for a list of safety incentive program “don’ts.”