An effective safety incentive program defines objectives, sets goals, and plans and assigns responsibility and accountability. Some detractors, however, claim that they dissuade employees from reporting accidents. “It must be absolutely clear that the punishment against not reporting accidents is harsh enough to counterbalance the incentives themselves so that employees are not tempted to lie. With correct implementation, a safety incentive program will go a long way toward keeping your organization’s employees out of harm’s way,” says Flynn Zaiger of Houma, LA-based Falck Productions, a division of Falck Alford, a leading provider of safety training to the Gulf South. Training and education are the main components of the safety programs that Zaiger plans, with incentives used throughout the year to supplement what was taught. “Accidents decrease significantly after a training session, but what happens a month down the line? That’s when our incentive program comes into play,” says Zaiger.
OSHA defines a positive incentive program as encouraging or rewarding workers for reporting injuries, illnesses, near-misses, or hazards; and/or recognizing, rewarding, and thereby encouraging worker involvement in the safety and health management system. Positive incentives include providing T-shirts to workers serving on safety and health committees; offering modest rewards for suggesting ways to strengthen safety and health; or throwing a recognition party at the successful completion of company-wide safety and health training.
The National Safety Council’s (NSC) position is similar. “Smart companies understand that there are many ways to engage employees and to recognize them for their important contributions to safety,” says James R. Johnson, NSC vice president, workplace safety initiatives. “One such opportunity is through the nurturing of a reporting culture through incentives, where not just injury incidents are reported, but hazards and near misses [are also reported] so the there is an increase in activities that ultimately reduce risk.”
Last October, Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on
more than a dozen states and is said to have caused $40 to $50
billion in damage. People lost their homes and businesses, and
more than 8 million people were left without power for days -
some for weeks. Though not on the radar of the general public,
safety programs have made a significant contribution to the
According to most experts, safety programs have a huge impact
on a company's bottom line. In many cases, when a company's
accident rate goes down, so do its insurance rates. In turn,
productivity increases, which is critical in times of crisis.
"Without the implementation of a safety program before a
catastrophe, employees would be unsure what actions they should
take immediately, as well as down the line," explains Flynn
Zaiger of Houma, LA-based Falck Productions, a division of
Falck Alford, one of the leading providers of safety training
to the Gulf South and surrounding areas.
Here's a look at how some safety programs are making the
recovery from Hurricane Sandy a little bit smoother.
Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) is one of
the largest combined electric and gas companies in the U.S., as
well as New Jersey's oldest and largest publicly owned utility.
The 109-year-old PSE&G services 1.8 million gas customers
and 2.2 million electric customers in more than 300 urban,
suburban, and rural communities, including New Jersey's six
largest cities. On a typical day, PSE&G has 600 electrical
line personnel working.
Oct. 29, when Hurricane Sandy pulverized the Northeast, was far
from a typical day. "We had approximately 1.9 million of our
2.2 million customers lose power as a result of Sandy," says
Rena Esposito, a PSE&G spokesperson. "Even before the storm
began, we had extra personnel from other states ready to help
restore power once the storm passed and it was safe to work.
PSE&G had 4,500 line, tree, and substation personnel
working around the clock."
This expanded team began restoring power on Oct. 30 and by Nov.
3, 80 percent of customers had power. Full restoration was
completed by Nov. 15. PSE&G relied on their culture of
safety to ensure the workers remained safety conscious while
they dealt with the disaster. "We want everyone to work safely
every day; that's our culture," explains Esposito. "We don't do
this with monetary incentives but rather through grassroots
efforts - from safety reminders posted at company locations to
daily safety discussions before crews go on the job. Every
employee knows what's expected - always wear personal
protective equipment, look out for co-workers, and stop the job
if something's not safe."
PSE&G also understands the importance of recognition in
ensuring safety. PSE&G Vice President Awards ceremonies are
held to recognize utility divisions that have gone
accident-free for 12 months and uphold PSE&G's safety
procedures. During the ceremony, plaques of recognition are
distributed. Awards of valor are also given and recently, the
PSE&G Award of Valor was given to a PSE&G appliance
service specialist who saved a man in an apartment fire.
Another simple but effective recognition tool is a T-shirt with
the PSE&G logo, a division or district's name, and a safety
message. One of PSE&G's most powerful recognition tools is
having Ralph LaRossa, president and COO of the company, as well
as his peers recognize individuals and groups who achieve
safety milestones, adds Esposito.
Linda Wodele, relationship manager for Hinda Incentives,
agrees. "The most successful safety incentive programs have
successful safety habits at their core. People are creatures of
habit and fall back on what they know. If their habits are
strong they will hold up in a crisis situation such as
Hurricane Sandy and the groundwork for working safely will be
in place," says Wodele. "We have seen an uptick of at least 15
to 20 percent in safety incentives in the last year. Our safety
solutions take a behavioral approach to remind people to do the
right thing on a daily basis."
A Safe Rebuild
The construction industry is one where safety is of paramount
importance. According to the Occupational Safety & Health
Administration (OSHA), nearly 6.5 million people work at
approximately 252,000 construction sites across the nation on
any given day. The fatal injury rate for the construction
industry is higher than the average in all other industries.
The construction industry is gearing up as Barclays' economic
research team reports that damage costs from Sandy may reach
$50 billion. The need to rebuild will put stress on the
industry and expose construction firms and their employees to a
greater risk of injury, industry experts predict. When there is
a need for a massive construction effort like the one needed to
rebuild areas affected by Hurricane Sandy, there will be an
emphasis put on speed.
"Outside influences will stress that the rebuilding needs to be
done quickly, which makes job site safety even more essential,"
reports Michael Kelleher, director of sales and operations for
Kelleher Enterprises, an Ann Arbor, MI-based company dedicated
to boosting individual and team performance. "Plus, workers
will be operating in unstable areas due to the environmental
impact of the storm. The firms that have successful safety
programs in place will be at an advantage because their
employees will have safety protocol engrained in their daily
work. Potential accident situations will be identified by those
on the ground before an injury occurs. Safety incentive
programs can effectively complement the training and
communication programs that construction firms use to influence
the behaviors of their employees while on the job. Firms with
effective programs in place can overcome the additional risk of
operating in areas devastated by Sandy."
One of Kelleher Enterprises' clients is Walbridge, one of
America's largest privately owned construction companies.
Walbridge takes safety seriously and has several safety
incentive recognition programs in place. Mark LaClair,
Walbridge's safety, health, and environmental assistant vice
president, uses seatbelts as a metaphor for its incentive
recognition program. "You wear them for your protection in an
accident, not because it's the law. That's the same with our
incentive recognition program. We reward the behavior," he
Walbridge does not base its incentive recognition program on
incident rates; instead it focuses on recognizing positive
behavior. For example, if two workers are installing something
overhead and are on an aerial lift and have done everything
possible to protect themselves and the work area, they may be
handed a recognition card. They can instantly win something
like a flashlight, tape measure, cooler, or thermos. There is
also the possibility that they could win a $100 gift that they
can select on a website.
"We prefer smaller dollar amount winners," says LaClair. "We'd
much rather have 10 different $100 winners than one $1,000
winner. We want the culture of safety to be widespread."
Wodele of Hinda also recommends reinforcing safe behavior by
encouraging prevention and rewarding achievements through spot
awards. Hinda's "Scratch & Win" cards are designed with
this in mind, as they immediately and quickly recognize and
reinforce safe work habits. The Scratch & Win cards have
points loaded on them that can be redeemed for merchandise.
"These types of awards are particularly popular as they
encourage companies to take a preventative, day-to-day approach
to safety," says Wodele.