How to curb on-the-job accidents with a workplace safety incentive program

This article first appeared in our Arrowhead Tribal Program blog. It has been updated and modified to fit all small-to-medium sized businesses. 

Workplace safety programs are doing their job well – of that, there’s no doubt. Over the past decade, as workplace safety awareness has increased, nonfatal injuries have consistently de-creased. Yet some 2.9 million workplace injuries still occur every year, according to OSHA. These injuries not only result in lost labor, but also a loss to your client’s bottom line. It may be time to suggest a workplace safety reward program for your small-to-medium business, to continue curbing these statistics and foster safer work environments.

Many organizations debate the best ways to implement a program that will not only be effective, but also yield the most return on their investment. What experts can agree on is the fact that a work safety reward program is extremely beneficial—not only for the obvious reason of keeping people safe at work, but also to keep your budget intact. 

Below are financial facts demonstrating how workplace injuries—and conversely, workplace safety—can impact your wallet:

  • Employers pay a high price for injuries—not just in workers’ compensation costs but also in terms of the cost of lost production, additional payroll, the drop in job quality during a worker’s absence and missed deadlines—all of which can cost anywhere from four to ten times as much as the worker’s comp claim itself, according to Ohio-based American Safety and Health Management Consultants, Inc. 
  • A successful program pays for itself. A workplace safety reward program doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. Regardless of its costs, even in terms of workers’ compensation insurance premiums alone, companies are seeing savings anywhere from $2-$10 on the dollar, according to Kansas-based American Safety Management, Inc.
  • An incentive program is designed to help improve a company’s bottom line. Since an unsafe workplace can be extremely costly, and a program is designed to make workplaces safer, the overlapping objective is to protect and improve the company’s bottom line.

If your commercial client decides to implement a safety incentive program, provide these tips on where to begin and how to build it in a way that will ensure its success.

 

8 general guidelines to follow when implementing a workplace safety reward program

1. Keep it simple and clear. Make sure the program’s structure is as clear as possible with all rules and expectations laid out from the start. That way workers will understand exactly what will happen if they behave in a certain way. Hold a kick-off meeting with food and company merchandise to bring everyone up to speed while creating excitement for the program.

2. Communication is key. Your program’s communication should be fun, continuous and highly visible. Think about your preferred method of communication, whether it be via corporate email, an employee website or newsletter or through colorful posters. You may also want to pick a program theme and incorporate it in all your communications.

3. Get upper management onboard. Higher-ups need to not only be involved with the program’s design but also remain visible throughout it. Whether that entails personally addressing employees or being the ones to hand out rewards, having managers involved fosters company trust among workers while giving the program staying power. 

4. Set performance goals. Set clear goals that are S.M.A.R.T.—specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound. This will help employees visualize any progress being made. For example, hang a chart where workers can mark the number of accident-free days and see how close they are to obtaining their reward.

5. Conduct quarterly check-ins. Regularly checking in with workers and letting them know how they’re tracking helps keep everyone motivated and involved. Have some fun with it by handing out quizzes in which you reward those with the highest scores while taking the op-portunity to divulge any new safety information.

6. Reward everyone and reward often. Implementing an “everybody wins” mentality includes everyone and will lend your program a feeling of teamwork, which makes it more likely to succeed. Hand out rewards approximately every 30-60 days to keep employees interested and engaged. 

7. Make awards genuine and meaningful. Prizes don’t have to be expensive to be effective. If you’re on a tight budget, don’t underestimate the value of a small gift card or company merchandise. Even a sincere pat on the back or public recognition can have significant meaning for an employee beyond a monetary prize.

8. Revise your plan as needed. As you implement your plan, new challenges such as those reported in a recent EHS Today article, may arise. They give suggestions on overcoming a number of issues including underreporting, a total lack of reporting, worker complacency and encouraging the reporting of recurring incidents every time they happen rather than just once. Every organization will face its own obstacles in launching and maintaining their plan, so observe your plan in action and make revisions whenever needed.