What are the best methods for achieving a positive return on investment with safety incentive programs?

boss dangling a carrot in front of workers in a hard hat

Safety incentives for workers

Responding is Buck Peavey, CEO, Peavey Co./Safety Jackpot, Kansas City, MO. 

Properly designed safety incentive programs are powerful tools for cultivating a culture of safety, driving employee engagement and achieving a positive return on investment. However, to ensure the success of these programs, employers must adopt well-thought-through and often creative approaches that go beyond the simple “dangle the carrot” programs. After studying and comparing different safety incentive program structures over the past 35 years, here are the elements that have proven not only to be more effective at lowering incidents and improving morale, but also deliver the strongest ROI to the bottom line.

It sounds odd, but you must work backward! Begin with the end in mind. First, establish what your main (measurable) goals and objectives are, such as reduction in incident rates, near misses, lost workdays, etc. Identify what the most common incidents your company is experiencing, then outline the exact weekly behaviors that will prevent them and deliver the most impact. Keep it simple, and directly target these defined areas. To gain management’s buy-in and willingness to invest in a safety program, all should be aware of what effect the incidents are having on the bottom line, not just the direct costs. Indirect incident costs are usually many times the cost of direct incident costs, such as lost productivity, downtime, missed deadline costs, repair costs, and replacement worker and training costs.

Second, instead of focusing solely on the reward itself (“dangling the carrot”) for the end result, use a weekly rewarding vehicle such as a stamp, point voucher, token or a gamecard that can deliver points leading to an award. Attach it to the weekly proactive behaviors needed for incident prevention.

Third, make sure your program creates safety teamwork, boosts morale and really fosters a culture of safety awareness. Gamification is a proven, powerful tool used to accomplish this, causing further participation and engagement that results in positive ROI. Using weekly gamecards that not only deliver award points but also can cause employee interaction has proven to work best. When employees have fun and feel invested in safety outcomes, they’re more likely to actively engage in risk mitigation efforts, driving positive results and, of course, ROI.

Remember that although monetary rewards such as cash and gift cards are commonly requested by employees, nonmonetary incentives using tangible rewards or merchandise have proven to deliver stronger behavior change and ROI.

Keep your structure and rules targeted and simple. The entire program must be easy to understand at the employee level and easy to administer at the management level.

Use technology to ease administration time. Several programs on the market today are online and smartphone-based. Some of these programs capture near-miss reports and can educate and reward for scoring high on a safety quiz.

In conclusion, achieving high ROI with safety incentive programs requires a focus on rewarding the actual weekly behaviors that prevent the most impactful incidents. Using gamification has been proven to boost workplace safety awareness to new levels, and using technology to simplify and keep administrative time and costs down can make a positive difference, all of which will help you make your workplace much safer and even deliver a strong ROI.

Editor’s note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be considered a National Safety Council endorsement.

Reprint from Safety & Health Management Magazine