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Hazmat 101 News - February 12, 2002
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Safety Incentives Tips

By Brian R. Shmaefsky, PhD

The idea of safety incentives causes much debate among safety
professionals. Regardless of the contrary views and opinions,
planning safety incentives can lead to many sleepless nights. The
following excerpt was extracted from a safety officer's mind while
she was lying awake in bed reflecting on work:

"The Production 3 group went four months without an injury. Should we
reward them? What do we get them for an incentive? Should we throw a
party? Production 2 still has accidents, but they went from an
average of eight accidents a year to an estimated 4 this year. Should
they be rewarded for this? What about Joe in Production 1? He went
five years accident-free even though the group has several reportable
incidents this year? What kind of gift would match his individual
exemplary performance? How much is all of this going to dig into my
budget? Do they really need incentives?"

Finding the appropriate incentive for safety performance is not a
capricious decision. Psychological investigations show that
incentives must be carefully thought out if they are going to
reinforce desired behaviors. Incentives are also nothing to ridicule.
They promote desired behavioral changes better than disincentives and
punitive actions. However, incentive programs must be designed in
such a way that the "grand prizes" do not tempt employees to hide
accidents and injuries. If done properly, incentives are consistent
with behavior based safety practices.

Always keep in mind that effective incentives raise an awareness of
safety practices with the outcome of reducing injuries. Below are
some researched tips for effective safety incentives:

* Encourage and solicit incentive suggestions from employees.
* Set ground rules for acceptable, but meaningful, safety incentives.
* Set a compensation schedule that promptly rewards desired
behaviors.
* Provide corporate, group and individual rewards to discourage false
injury claims.
* Reward measurable goals.
* Reward "growth" toward safety behavior and not just accident-free
periods.
* Provide small incentives for reporting incidents followed by
corrective training.
* Have long-term and short-term incentives rewarded proportionally.
* Do not underestimate the value of praise and recognition in place
of numerous monetary and material rewards.
* Think of creative incentives: concert tickets, discount coupon
books, gift certificates, hotel stays, lottery tickets, restaurant
meals and sports tickets.
* Avoid "Big Ticket" prizes that may encourage the hiding of
accidents and injuries.
* Have a consistent reward policy that is open to modification
through employee and supervisor feedback.

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