by Andrea Doyle | September 30, 2016

A safety incentive program may seem like a straightforward concept: Avoid injury or unsafe practices, and earn a reward. But this becomes much more complicated when, in an effort to earn this reward (or to ensure one's team or department earns the reward), a worker or his or her supervisor avoids reporting incidents of injury or unsafe behavior.

"Safety programs should be based on activities that increase safety awareness and get everyone engaged in safety (leading indicators)," says Dennis Downing, president of AllStarRewards, an Austin, TX-based incentive program management company. "The problem with safety incentive programs that are based on incident rates is they are based on lagging indicators, or things that have already occurred."

These concerns have led the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to put in place specific recordkeeping regulations to monitor companies that have safety incentive programs; these reward workers not just for avoiding injuries, but for reporting them, as well as illnesses, near-misses, and other hazards. The regulations also recognize and reward participation - encouraging worker involvement in the safety and health-management system.

AllStarRewards creates points-based safety incentive programs where points are earned for actions like becoming first-aid certified, serving on a safety task force, identifying and alleviating hazards, or even participating in stretching programs. Those points are then redeemed for items provided through Hinda Incentives, the Chicago-based award fulfillment company, with some of the most popular products being hand tools and electronics.

The Complete Safety Puzzle
It's important to remember that a safety incentive program is only one piece of a comprehensive safety puzzle. Management support, training, and education are imperative, with incentives used to supplement what was taught. It must be stressed that programs are more about behavior than outcome.

An effective safety incentive program must involve everyone in the safety process - from plant-level employees to those in upper management. Employees must understand what the end goal is, and the reward has to be something that will actually motivate them toward that.

Gary Hanson, who is now president of American Safety and Health Management Consultants, a multidisciplinary professional safety consulting company based in North Canton, OH, planned and implemented a successful safety incentive program for a large retail store chain that he used to work for as corporate director of risk management.

"We got every level of management actively involved in supporting the company's safety program," says Hanson.

The program culminated with a safety award banquet for managers in each division. "It was a very big deal. The president actually passed out the additional bonus checks and the division manager was honored with a plaque identifying 'Safety Manager of the Year' for that region."

The results benefited the company, as there were fewer employee injuries, improved morale, and a significant reduction in the company's workers' compensation costs.  


Dennis Downing
 offers suggestions for typical safety and wellness activities that you may want to include in proactive safety/wellness incentive programs at

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This article appears in the September/October 2016 issue of Incentive.