Re-Inventing the Wheel – Do It Just This Once

Safety incentive programs have been around for quite some time, and for most companies, they’ve changed very little since their inception. However, like everything these days, what’s considered “best practice” may change very rapidly, and safety programs have certainly seen several revisions in their time. What you’re doing right now could seem like a trusty, time-proven system with stellar results, but the safety incentive issue is usually a bit more complex than most employers realize, or might be willing to admit.

As it stands most companies work, or until recently have worked, on a zero-incident program. In its most basic form, this means that incentives or awards are earned by ensuring that accidents, and the ensuing injuries, never happen.

“What’s Wrong With That?”

For most employers, these programs really seem to be working, and reported injuries and accidents are rather low. But that’s just the thing, reported injuries and accidents can often be a much different figure than the reality of how many incidents occurred. For example, if a worker injures himself but doesn’t consider the accident severe enough, he’s probably not going to report it at all under a zero-incident system. Why? Because he knows that the financial incentive lies in not having any accidents, not in being honest or reporting them. What this type of program creates is an actual incentive not to report work-related injuries. Most of the times this flawed system is simply around because it always has been, it’s what people are used to and it appears to work. In its worst form, it’s a way for employers to have plausible deniability even though they know they’re likely turning a blind eye to several accidents per year.

New Safety Looks Like This

Injuries happen, let’s be honest for a second. No matter how safe your workplace is, or how often it’s inspected, it’s human nature to make a mistake from time to time and while our job is to eliminate as much of that risk as possible, it’s not realistic to completely eradicate workplace hazards. For this reason, programs now often hinge on near misses and observations.

New programs often establish goals for reporting safety observations. This encourages employees to speak up about anything that might be an issue, rather than rewarding them for essentially keeping their mouths shut. Set goals for individuals, departments, or make them company-wide.

Near misses should also be analyzed and factored into your safety preparations. Create a team, consisting of employees at all levels, who are enthusiastic about creating a safe work environment and task them with finding and reporting cases where something could easily go wrong, or that has. Even if someone slips and is able to recover themselves before they fall, it’s easy to see that a certain slick spot on the floor, and the reason it’s wet in the first place, could potentially injure someone down the road in a serious way.

The main idea here is to get creative with your program, and buck the trend that has reigned supreme for the past few decades. What can you come up with?

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