A comprehensive safety program is essential in many industries, and while it is understood that an award program can help promote a strong safety culture, there is no handbook out there on how to bring an effective program to life. Who should you reward? For what? And how? Implementing a safety awards program can be a daunting task, but if you break it down into a few key steps, you can be a model for prevention in no time!
1. Determine process-based goals and encourage innovation
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued a bulletin last year cautioning against incentive programs that “unintentionally or intentionally provide employees an incentive to not report injuries.” While they do not issue regulations on programs, you should take this advice to heart when determining your safety incentive goals. A program with purely results-based goals (“accident-free” for a specified period of time) may encourage employees to under-report incidents which can ultimately lead to a more dangerous environment. Instead, motivate employees to practice safe behaviors with process-based goals – i.e. attending safety training or earning a high score on a safety quiz. And don’t forget to encourage innovation! Award employees who spot near-misses or potential hazards and share their ideas for improvement.
2. Raise awareness by constantly communicating
What good is a safety awards program if nobody knows it exists? Get the word out on the program early and often! Provide who, what, where, when and how in all of your communication. While you’re enticing employees with the rewards they can earn, don’t miss the golden opportunity to continue driving your safety message. Publish a monthly newsletter with the latest safety news, send a “safety tip of the week” email or post suggestions from employees that have been implemented on a bulletin board. Keeping your message fresh and pairing it with employee awards will help retain attention and keep your overall safety goals at the forefront of employees’ minds.
3. Give meaningful rewards and don’t forget that public recognition can be a powerful thing
The driving motivational force of a safety program should be the safety of its participants, but we all know safety itself is not a very exciting topic. Engage your employees not just by offering rewards for meeting goals, but by offering rewards they want to earn! Perceived value can vary from person to person, so try a solution where each employee can select their own reward like a points based safety incentive program. Be sure that rewards are actually attainable and can be earned frequently enough to keep the goals top of mind. Instead of quarterly goals, try implementing monthly or weekly goals and then update employees along the way so they can see their progress and take ownership of how they are performing. And while earning stuff is great, don’t forget the power of simple recognition. Present awards in a public forum or post a leaderboard so top performers can be recognized by their peers and employees who aren’t as active can see what they are missing out on.
If you’ve been holding off on implementing a safety awards program because it seems overwhelming, there are no more excuses! Breaking it down into these key steps can make the whole process more manageable. And remember, ultimately it will not only create a safer environment overall, but it can also empower your employees and improve morale, so can you really afford to procrastinate any longer?