Downside to Incentives

When it comes to improving workplace safety, there is no shortage of ideas on how it should be done. One controversial method many organizations have tried is using some sort of incentive or compensation program for improved safety. If, for example, employees attend or participate in a safety seminar, they may be rewarded with a bonus, a prize or something like that. There are also companies that set goals surrounding safety, such as number of accidents in a set period of time. If the employees can meet the goals, they will be rewarded with some sort of compensation.

At first glance, this might seem like a great way to improve the safety of a workplace. It can motivate employees to make smart choices, and encourage them to learn more about how to stay safe in the workplace. Depending on the type of facility, and what specific goals the management or safety team has in mind, it is even possible for incentives to produce the results being measured by the management teams. There are, however, many problems associated with this type of program, which is why you should always think twice about putting them in place.

Things to Think About

If your organization is thinking about putting an incentive program for safety in place, make sure to read through, and consider the following items. They show why incentives are not the right option for many companies, and why they can actually be counterproductive.

Not In their Hands – Incentive programs should only be used for things that the employees can directly control. In many cases, the safety of a particular area is entirely out of the hands of the employees. If a machine malfunctions, for example, and it causes an injury, that is not something the employees could prevent.

Hiding Problems – When there are cash incentives, employees may be hesitant to report injuries or accidents so that they can meet their goals. There also may be peer pressure to cover up safety concerns so that everyone can get their incentives. This can expose everyone to additional risk, without actually fixing any safety problems.

Trivializes Safety – When you offer cash incentives or bonuses to employees for safety performance, they will get the impression that this is an extra item or secondary item. If they don’t take safety seriously, the safety levels will not improve.

Optional – When people see something as a bonus or incentive, they often look at is as an optional item. Safety should never be considered optional, and in fact, it should be seen as a priority for everyone in the facility.

Not Driving Success – Despite what many people may say or believe, incentives are not the ideal way to motivate people to adjust their behavior. For safety situations, it will be far more effective to work to engage your employees to work hard and identify safety problems than it is to simply reward them for avoiding the issues.

Awards Vs. Incentives

While incentives may not be the best way to encourage people to improve the safety of a facility, you can still use awards. Even cash, prizes or other items can be effectively used to help increase the safety of a facility. If, for example, someone identifies a significant risk and helps the company to get it fixed, they could be given a onetime award for their contribution. Unlike incentives, these awards will typically be given out on a case by case basis, and only for things that truly improve the overall safety of the facility.

Finding the best ways to improve the safety of a facility is important, but with some hard work, it can be done. One thing that can always be helpful is to work with the employees to identify and eliminate risks, rather than just incentivize them for making the safety numbers look the way you want them.

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