Gulfshore Insurance > Gulfshore Blog > Commercial Risk Management > 9 Keys to a Successful Safety Incentive Program

When examining your own safety reward program or when building one from scratch, consider the following guidelines:…
1. Keep Rewards Small
Material rewards should not be perceived as the major payoff. The promise of incentives and rewards should only serve as reminders to work safely, and delivery of such rewards should be viewed by employees as a token of appreciation for performing the desired safe behaviors. If the focus is on the material reward, then the focus is not on working safely. A good rule of thumb is to try and equate the value of the safe behavior with the value of the reward. Therefore, giving away a $20 gift certificate to everyone who completed their observations for the month might be excessive.
2. Involve Workers
Include as many workers as possible in the construction, selection, and delivery of the reward system. By doing this, buy-in is generated up front and support or lack thereof will be evident early on so changes can be made prior to launching the program. Also, by involving workers, you are more likely to choose appropriate reinforcers rather than having management choose what they THINK workers would like.
3. Specify The Behaviors You Desire
Behaviors required to achieve a safety reward should be clearly spelled out and perceived as achievable by participants. If safe behaviors are not specified, then employees will not know what they need to do in order to receive the reward and interest will soon wane. Bad example: Receiving a reward if you haven’t had any accidents in the past year. Good example: Receiving a reward for achieving a percent safe goal for a behavior or set of behaviors on a checklist.
4. Collect Data And Post It
Progress toward achieving a safety reward should be systematically monitored using checklist data, and publicly posted for all participants. If safety performance is not monitored, then it will be impossible to accurately determine which employees deserve the reward.
5. Provide Meaningful Rewards
Carefully determine the rewards given as a part of your program. If employees do not find the rewards meaningful, then the reward program will not be an incentive to work safely. Some organizations have done plant-wide surveys to determine what types of social, tangible, and work process rewards are meaningful to employees.
6. Never Penalize All Group Members For Failure Of One Member
Groups of employees should not be penalized or lose their rewards/incentives for the failure of one group member. Group rewards should be tied to the overall performance of the group, but some control must be in place to assure that each member of the group who gets the reward actually earned it.
7. Give The Reward To Everyone Who Meets The Criteria
You should design a reward program with this principle in mind. If you can’t afford to reward everyone who meets your criteria, you should reinvestigate your criteria. Everyone who meets the behavioral criteria you have specified should be rewarded. Otherwise, some employees who have worked safely will not be rewarded. These employees will perceive they have been punished. Some guidelines to follow:
It is better for many participants to receive small rewards than for one person to receive a big reward. Example: An organization decides to use a lottery incentive program where there is a raffle for a television set, a stereo, or a vehicle; usually participants accumulate chances for the drawing and then at the end of a specified period of time, the drawing occurs. One person wins. The problems with this are:

  • Everyone worked safely many times but was not rewarded.
  • The person who won did so by chance.
  • The focus might be on the big prize, not safety.

One group (or individual) should not be rewarded at the expense of another group (or individual). Everyone should have equal opportunity to achieve the reward. The process by which the incentive is given should not be a formal competition where one group “beats” another. Healthy competition can be very effective in generating high levels of safe performance but be careful not to set up a win-lose situation. Those employees who came close to winning will feel punished because they worked safely, but were not rewarded.
8. Keep The Program Rules Simple
The most successful reward programs are also usually the simplest. The less complicated the program, the better the chances that all workers will understand and participate in it, and that the safe behaviors will occur consistently. Launch the program with a special kick-off event or as part of your behavior-based safety program kick-off event to let everyone know the “rules,” and to show that the program has the support of management.
9. Follow Through With Rewards
Nothing kills a reward program quicker than failure to deliver the promised rewards. Make a commitment to follow through with all aspects of the program. It may seem frivolous, but an effective Safe Performance Reward Program can play a very important role in workplace accident prevention.

All of these guidelines can be applied to safety programs that focus on automobile fleet safety, employee safety to control Workers’ Compensation costs and the WC Experience Mod, or customer/3rd party safety as it relates to General Liability.

John Keller, CRM ARM CIC AAI is the Director of Risk Management and Claims at Gulfshore Insurance. John works with a wide range of business clients to deliver strategic risk analysis and guidance. Comments and questions are welcome at