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Is Free Pizza Any Way to Run a Safety Incentive Program?

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

factory colleagues working together

Does your company have a safety incentive program?  If so, what are your success metrics? What are the rewards? How do you know its working?

Safety incentive programs are popular, appealing, and if done well, effective. They can range from over-sized, prominently placed billboards announcing consecutive days without an incident, to free donuts or pizza on Fridays. Many companies even promote their safety programs and records in their marketing materials.

Sure, these incentive programs offer the promise of safety, but do they always deliver? Camps on both sides of the debate bring important issues to light.

The Good

Well designed and implemented safety incentive programs encourage responsible behavior, promote teamwork, reduce claims and increase safety awareness. They can positively influence the bottom line regarding downtime, insurance rates, sick leave, team cohesiveness, fines and company profits.

The Not So Good

Poorly managed incentive programs cause underreporting, or team leader intimidation. A company may read false positives on fudged safety numbers, presuming the incentive program is working when it’s actually discouraging incident reports, hiding injuries and problems, and undermining the safety program it’s supposed to improve. This could result in fines, increased insurance rates and poor morale.

Five Questions to Ask

Successful safety incentive programs can successfully lower incidents, build teamwork and improve the bottom line if you adopt some proven strategies from the outset. Here are five questions you should ask when building your safety incentive program.

Is it easy to manage and maintain?

The road of poor safety records is littered with incentive programs that either didn’t get started, or lost momentum after they were launched. Safety incentive programs don’t show up as line items on profit and loss statements or in standard job descriptions. But when they are programmed and administered within day-to-day operations and scope of work, the bottom line will benefit.

Is it rewarding and entertaining?

Donuts and pizza may seem like a good idea for a while. Pretty soon, it’s “donuts again?” Ensure the long-term viability of your safety incentive program by changing up the rewards. Offer larger incentives for quarterly, semi-annual or annual reviews. How would workers or teams like to be rewarded? It may be a bowling night, time off, or a few extra bucks in the paycheck. Get their input and you’ll invite greater participation.

Does it provide recognition for individual and group achievement?

Safety incentive programs have great team building potential. Healthy competition between teams encourages buy in. Improve your chances for the program’s eventual success by empowering everyone to participate.

Is it visual?

Promote the program visually throughout the facility and in department-employee correspondences. If teams are involved, promote the competitiveness of the program. Make it a game. Post signs with updates in communal spaces like break rooms or at points of ingress and egress, and in newsletters, blogs and bulletins.

Does it improve safety awareness and hazard communication?

The goal of a safety incentive program is not to buy pizza or give away gift cards; it’s to improve safety. Build in incentives for workers to make suggestions for future improvements in addition to watching out for existing hazards. Incorporate some elements of Lean Manufacturing such as Kaizen and reward recommendations for overall operations improvement in addition to safety.

If you have a safety incentive program in place, plan an audit to determine its viability and accountability. If it needs to be refreshed, get employees involved by asking for input. If your company is planning to implement a safety incentive program, find a balance between measurable safety improvement, and long-term participation. The decrease in accidents and claims, and the increase in teamwork and employee involvement, will pay off.