The Truth About Safety Incentives:
Two Philosophies About Incentives
One of the great debates in workplace safety today is the role of incentives. Two philosophies seem to exist. One says that workers will not work safe unless we give them incentives to do so. The other says that incentives should not be required for workers to do their jobs without injury. Interestingly, safety and operational supervisors, managers, and directors who are working hard to find a way to focus employees on reducing injuries fuel the debate.
The Problem With Most Incentive Programs
The biggest problem with safety incentive programs is that they do not work the way people expect them to. Programs that reward employees with monetary or tangible rewards for an expected level of performance are dangerous when it comes to safety. The reason is this: they tend to cause under-reporting, particularly when the performance is related to lagging indicators such as reduced incidents or severity rates. Both managers and employees alike confirm this, no matter what the industry. People tend to focus on the reward rather than the outcome of going home every day without an injury. Under-reporting causes information to be buried, which can lead to dangerous behaviors or hazardous situations not being properly addressed.
Sure, there are examples of how incentive programs have helped organizations turn their safety performance from negative to positive. This may be the case for the short term, but over a period of time, safety incentive programs become: