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We have been throwing around the idea of incorporating more incentives for individual or work groups with zero incidents. Does anyone have any experience with this positive or negative? Does anyone have any cleaver ideas for incentives?

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In terms of incentive programs there is a real danger of creating incentives with unintended outcomes. In simplest terms you get what you reward, so be careful. So, what do we want to reward? No injuries seems like a no-brainer, right? Studies have shown that incentive programs that reward the absence of injuries result in under reporting of injuries. If the reward is sufficient to truly motivate a worker to work more safely, it is also an incentive to keep quiet about injuries if you can. And even if you were to somehow get around the problem of driving injuries underground you would still be rewarding a "non-event" and it's important to remember that the absence of injuries does not necessarily denote the presence of safety.

So are incentive programs garbage? Absolutely not. The right incentive program can motivate workers to greatly improve the workplace by eliminating hazards and risky behavior. So how does one achieve this goal? First, identify your biggest threats to work-place safety---take a hard look at two things: frequency and severity. To determine frequency, you just have to identify the most hazards that cause the most injuries: working out of station, hoses on the floor, poor housekeeping, etc. To identify severity take a look at the injuries---while sometimes rare----result in very serious injuries or fatalities.

Once you know the hazards that are most likely to injure a worker (frequency) or to seriously injure a worker (severity) you can create some incentives for removing the hazards and that will drive these injuries down. Here are some things that companies who have good incentive programs reward:

Suggestions for improving workplace safety

Participating on a problem solving team that is charged with improving workplace safety

Identifying and containing specific hazards

If you wanted to be more creative and foster some friendly competition you could sponsor a safety scavenger hunt. How this competition works is:

1. You create a list of hazards you want the teams to find and eliminate (see above)
2. Give each team a list of the hazards with specific instructions as to what to do (some use cameras to take before and after pictures, others require that the teams hand in a form describing the hazard, and some require the team to involve a supervisor to correct the situation. In all cases the teams should contain the hazard to ensure that nobody gets hurt .)
3. Reward the top team.

Remember when doing the scavenger hunt to phrase physical hazards as negative (a machine with missing guarding) and the behaviors as positive (tradesman working while properly locked out, or a person wearing fall protection). Phrasing things this way will save you some major headaches and hard feelings.

Finally, always be specific about what they are looking for---a person wearing fall protection instead of a person wearing PPE---and remember that everything on your list should directly match up to one of your top injury causes.

Phil La Duke
Director, Performance Improvement
I just toured a manufacturer who is deeply invested in rewarding people for zero incidents. I was alarmed at how people had become terrified of reporting an injury and at the lengths that these people would go to avoid having an injury categorized as a recordable. YOU CAN'T REWARD THE ABSENCE OF INJURIES WITHOUT CREATING AN INCENTIVE TO UNDER REPORT.

This company also rewarded those individuals who reported at least 2 hazards a quarter. The database they use is choked with inconsequential hazards of dubious veracity. If you want to reward safety you have to reward meaningful efforts that directly influence the increased safety of the workplace. So to that end, how about rewarding the identification, containment, and correction of strategic hazards (those most likely to injure or those that create the most serious injuries.) Or implement a safety improvement suggestion program that rewards only those suggestions that are implemented?
We recently started a safety incentive program. After less that six months we experienced our first "zero-incident quarter". The problem of under reporting cannot be avoided. The rewards need not be extravagant. Large monetary awards encourage under reporting. Small, meaningful rewards that show recognition for achieveing a zero incident quarter and making a big deal of it, like a photo shoot, a mention in the monthly newsletter etc, does not tempt a worker to cover up an accident, injury or incident. The reward is usually a shirt, jacket, cap etc. Additionally, there is a drawing for a 100.00 gift card at the end of the quarter. This is inexpensive and does not consume much time to implement.
Zero incidents is an excellent starting point. You motivate them to continue doing what they're doing just as vigorously as though they were wanting to improve a poor record. A quarterly safety recognition award, coupled with newspaper publicity, a company picnic, etc, the options are endless. They have bragging rights and should be rewarded accordingly


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