Incentivizing Safety Safely


Incentivizing Safety Safely

Best practices for encouraging a strong safety culture

When the words “safety” and “incentive” are used together, there is often concern about programs that encourage workers to not report an incident. However, it’s totally possible, encouraged even, to create and implement a balanced safety incentive program that’s positive for everyone involved and makes a big impact.

The following are just a few ideas you can use to construct an OSHA-friendly safety incentive program to add to your overall safety and health program. As you build your program, or make changes and additions to your current program, don’t be afraid to think outside the box; there are dozens of ways to encourage your employees to work safely and simultaneously continue to grow a robust safety culture in your company.

Employees standing at the grill for a cookout

 Best Practices:

  • Try new things! Don’t limit your program just because you’ve never done it before. The safety landscape is always changing, so look for new ideas and trends to keep your program fresh.
  • Include new safety technology like an app or wearable to encourage participation. Wearables, like smart watches and smart glasses, can collect data about safety concerns like ergonomics or fatigue and simply the act of wearing them can make your workers more aware of their environment.
  • Be sure your program doesn’t promote non-reporting. Incentive programs that focus only on things such as a certain number of hours/shifts/days without an injury can inadvertently encourage your employees to avoid reporting an incident. Instead, diversify your incentives while focusing on leading indicators (safety training, internal audits) rather than lagging indicators (injuries, lost workdays).

Build a Balanced Program

Employees chatting during a cookout

According to OSHA, the best approach for an effective safety incentive program is one that both encourages safe work practices and promotes participation in safety-related activities. 

Examples of specific actions and activities you could reward include:

  • Participating in safety meetings
  • Helping with an incident investigation
  • Achieving perfect attendance
  • Completing safety or health training
  • Reporting a near miss/close call
  • Leading a pre-shift stretching routine
  • Participating in a safety inspection or audit
  • Practicing good housekeeping
  • Helping with planned preventative maintenance
  • Recognizing a peer for a safe act
  • Suggesting off-the-job safety ideas

Get Inspired

Stacks of high visibility shirts

One way to both get buy-in for your program and have a little fun is to deploy creative incentives to encourage employee participation. Consider the following options for rewards and recognition:

  • Hand out poker chips your employees can use to purchase items from a prize shop.
  • Collect near miss forms and hold a monthly drawing for prizes.
  • Randomly reward good safety behavior with gift cards from your local grocery store.
  • Offer workers the opportunity to choose some new company logo swag.
  • Throw a surprise pizza party in conjunction with a new safety training or to recognize your current safety committee.

Get started today, plan a kick-off party to get everyone on board, and take the time to explain your expectations and the related rewards!

With just a little creativity, your safety incentive program can both recognize your people and improve the overall safety and health in your company  by increasing awareness and reducing incidents all while getting more of your employees involved in the process. 

About the Author: Molly Butz worked with CMs to develop the original SBCA Operation Safety Program and has over 16 years of experience helping CMs develop and maintain safety best practices. Concepts covered in this article originated at the 2019 SBCA Safety Summit.