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Is Your Employee Safety Incentive Program Effective?

Is Your Employee Safety Incentive Program Effective?

Employee safety incentive and recognition programs are a great way to increase motivation and improve your overall safety program. From company clothing, free lunches, and gift cards, to personal recognition, incentives can be effective tools for increasing employee involvement and understanding in environmental health and safety (EHS). However, incentive programs with little support or solely prize-driven involvement can fall short in benefiting your EHS program and your employees. Incentive programs will differ from company to company so it’s important to understand what works best for your workforce. Here are a few tips to consider when developing or updating your program.

Make the message clear.

The goal of any safety-related program is to ensure all employees go home safely at the end of each day. Communicate the message clearly to ensure employees understand the program goals. This could be done with a message from the CEO or member of executive management. If an employee’s only thought is winning a prize, this could motivate in a way that doesn’t support company goals.

Involve everyone.

Safety is a collaboration between all levels of employees within a company; your incentive program should be organized the same way. Full time, part time, management, and temporary workers should all be involved in the program. Leaving certain groups out may create a negative image of the overall health and safety culture, and leave those individuals unmotivated to work safely.

Be careful what metrics you reward.

The last thing you want from an incentive program is to discourage employees from reporting injuries or hazards. Rewarding employees for zero injuries or zero hazards found in work areas may seem like a good way to track safety improvements and reward individuals, but can cause reporting to fall short due to incentive motivations. Depending on safety culture and workforce dynamic, this may or may not be an effective rewarding strategy. Give Supervisors and Managers the ability to reward “on-spot” behaviors. Incentive programs should be a balance of reducing injuries and increasing employee involvement and enthusiasm in safety. 

EHS sample photo

Make sure your overall safety program is updated and effective.

Employees should understand the basics of your EHS program and the hazards they may face in the work environment. If EHS is a completely foreign topic to the majority of your workforce, you may struggle with employee participation. Incentives should be an added fun and motivating tool to your EHS program. They should never be used in lieu of a company EHS program.  

Tailor your rewards to your workforce.

If your company has a fairly high turnover rate, monetary related rewards may be the most motivating to your workforce. If your company has a more tenured workforce, meaningful and sentimental rewards may be more motivating. Examples of sentimental rewards may include recognition for safety excellence at banquets or customized jackets with safety achievements on them. Find out what works best for your employees. 

Lastly, make sure goals can be measured and tracked.

This can be done by utilizing the SMART method for goal setting. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. SMART goals provide clear information about what is expected from incentive programs. This allows employees to see the effects of participating in the program, which likely will increase involvement. 

It’s vital for individuals in management positions to really get through to employees about the overall goal of the program. EHS can be a difficult and cumbersome subject to receive buy-in throughout all levels of a company on a daily basis. If you can get a group of people to work together and believe in a safe workplace, you can achieve great things. The best reward a company can give is sending every employee home safe, day after day. 


Cody Dye, CSP

EHS Consultant III