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The Dos and Don'ts of an Effective Safety Incentive Program

By Alliant Specialty

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A safety program is a necessity in any workplace, but even with detailed procedures laid out, there is no guarantee that all employees and supervisors will heed your policies. Creating safety incentives increases the likelihood that employees will follow guidelines and contribute to a robust safety culture at your organization.

Safety incentives refer to rewards, like shout-outs and free lunches, which encourage employee involvement and contribute to a stronger safety system. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), workplaces with an effective safety and health management system can reduce workplace injury and illness costs by 20 to 40 percent.

It is never too late to prioritize safety and actualize the benefits. Consider these common dos and don’ts to make safety a natural extension of your workplace culture.


Safety Engagement Dos and Don'ts

Use these best practices to create a safety incentive program that puts your employees’ needs first:

  • DO recognize the importance of recognition over rewards in cultivating an excellent safety culture. When leaders are trained and encouraged to acknowledge safe behavior and positive outcomes, it creates a strong foundation for safety awareness. Whether through newsletters, awards ceremonies or dinner parties, recognizing employees’ contributions in creative and innovative ways helps to encourage ongoing cooperation and interest.
  • DO use constant repetition and consistently promote the program. Regularly spotlight your incentive program in your employee communications and ensure that management brings it up in meetings with their direct reports.
  • DO obtain management support and buy-in for success. It is imperative that every manager, from supervisors to the CEO, demonstrates unwavering commitment and active participation in the program. When employees witness the dedication of their management team, they are more likely to embrace and engage with the program. Management’s genuine involvement serves as a powerful catalyst in gaining employee trust and fostering a positive program culture.
  • DO commit appropriate time and money to the program. Safety incentives can add up in costs, so it’s essential to set aside a budget toward making the program a success. Keep in mind that these smaller expenses are much preferrable to work injury costs, which totaled to $167 billion in 2022 according to the National Safety Council. This figure includes wage and productivity losses, medical expenses and administrative expenses, which can significantly stall growth.
  • DO make safety a core value for your organization. Your values shape your business’s and employees’ actions. By making safety one of your guiding values, you can effectively establish a culture of care and responsibility.
  • DO involve employees in the process. Your safety incentive program will be most successful when employees are engaged and involved. Ask employees for their input, provide the right training and resources and encourage team-wide collaboration.
  • DO set high expectations for your employees and management. Set measurable goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) so everyone is on the same page. For example, you might create a goal to reduce the number of total annual accidents by 70%. Share these objectives with your team and create detailed safety policies and procedures that clearly outline expectations for how to achieve these goals.
  • DO reward everyone and reward often. In addition to investing in and rewarding employees who already prioritize safety, it is equally crucial to focus on changing the behavior of those who may not demonstrate the same level of commitment. Ensuring fairness and equal opportunity for all employees to earn rewards is essential. If you employ long-term processes or points-based programs that accumulate toward rewards, provide regular updates to keep employees informed about their progress. Offering routine feedback and consistently linking successful behavior changes to rewards reinforces the connection between desired behaviors and recognition.
  • DO provide rewards that are meaningful to your employees. Survey your employees ahead of time to determine which rewards are most motivating to them. This ensures that your incentive program is tailored to their preferences, increasing engagement and participation.

With work-related fatalities up nearly six percent in the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, it is more important than ever to implement a strong safety program at your organization. Adhering to these best practices will put your business in a good position to achieve higher safety standards, enhance employee satisfaction and wellness and boost your reputation.

Now that you know what your company should be doing to promote workplace safety, consider what to avoid:

  • DON’T focus solely on the reward. The main objective of your safety incentive program is to get employees excited about building a safety culture, not just receiving a reward at the end. Consistently educate your team about the value of safety so this becomes ingrained in their everyday behaviors and actions in the workplace.
  • DON’T dial in on injury reports. It’s simple to frame your entire incentive program around reducing injuries. However, doing so can prevent your business from generating accurate and timely reports, especially if your employees fear penalties or the withdrawal of incentives. Make sure to implement safety-conscious behaviors in your procedures and other positive objectives so your safety program is less punitive and more motivating.
  • DON’T let the safety incentive program stand alone or be a substitute for a full safety program. Safety incentives are just one piece of a full safety system. Your safety program should include trainings, regular safety meetings, supervisor accountability and the reshaping of management and employee attitudes.
  • DON’T make it complicated. Once you launch your safety incentive program, clearly articulate the goals, how to achieve them and the associated rewards. It should be easy for anyone at your company to understand how to get involved and push your safety goals forward.
  • DON’T attempt to take a program “off the shelf” and plug it into your organization. Your organization is unique and therefore deserving of a custom incentive program. Be open to modifying your approach as needed to maximize employee buy-in and ensure your program remains relevant and effective.
  • DON’T expect the program to run on its own. Your employees can aid in your safety incentive program’s success by leading committees and motivating their peers to stay on top of best practices.
  • DON’T use contests or group rewards that will result in negative peer pressure. This can contribute to a toxic work culture and discourage employees from following your safety guidelines. Team members should work collaboratively instead of against one another to promote a cohesive safety culture that permeates your entire organization.

As your employees’ needs and interests evolve, stay flexible and be open to change. For example, you might find that while one procedure and associated incentive tends to resonate with your employees and encourage action, another may not. Track relevant KPIs on the way to your goals and adjust your strategies as needed to optimize results.


Safety Incentives that Work

Rewards that will get your employees excited about safety and encourage their involvement in your program include:

  • Monetary bonuses
  • Extra paid time off
  • Recognition awards, like certificates or plaques
  • Wellness rewards, like spa vouchers or gym memberships
  • Team celebrations, such as lunches or outings
  • Experience-based rewards like tickets to concerts or sports games

The opportunities are endless when it comes to promoting safety at your organization. Collect ideas from your employees ahead of time so you can tailor your safety incentive rewards to their interests.

Alliant is Your Safety Partner

Above all, remember that safety incentive programs should be about recognition and motivation for making safety a top priority every day. When safety becomes a focal point in your organization’s culture, you’ll be able to strengthen your loss control efforts and decrease the occurrence of preventable accidents and injuries. Alliant Insurance Services can serve as your safety partner in preventing injuries and fatalities and safeguarding your assets. Contact Alliant to learn more about our safety and loss control services.

Alliant note and disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance. Please note that prior to implementation your legal counsel should review all details or policy information. Alliant Insurance Services does not provide legal advice or legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please seek the services of your own legal advisor or ask Alliant Insurance Services for a referral. This document is provided on an “as is” basis without any warranty of any kind. Alliant Insurance Services disclaims any liability for any loss or damage from reliance on this document.