Safety Motivation: The Work Comp Playbook for Employers

You can fill your workplace with preventative and responsive safety measures, but you cannot truly create a workplace safety culture until your employees are motivated to create one. We’ve previously discussed the importance of safety engagement and balancing positive with negative reinforcement, and this post will continue down that path and focus on how you can best drive your employees to be fully engaged with your safety measures through a safety incentive program. It is entirely up to you which incentives you choose and how you choose to distribute them, but don’t just focus on the incentives: be sure to create a program that prioritizes safety above all else.

Avoid these potential pitfalls

There are a number of things that can sabotage a safety incentive program, with the foremost being a lack of employee involvement. Some employees, for example, may find the program unnecessary, as workplace safety should be part of their everyday job description. While it is correct that safety should always be at the forefront of your workplace, when creating your incentive program emphasize that the incentives are meant to instill consistent safe practices in the workplace. There is also the chance of your employees growing complacent or even bored with the program if it remains the same year after year. In order to prevent people from ignoring the program, switch up the expectations and incentives on a regular basis (perhaps year by year) and encourage your employees to get involved and voice their opinions. If employees are not engaged with the programs, then they will likely not care to follow them, and the program will likely become more trouble than it is worth due to the heavy volume of necessary paperwork.

You will also want to keep in mind the possibility of employees focusing more on the incentive than the safety itself. In some cases, employees have been found to grow to expect the incentive regardless of what happens, or employees have been reluctant to report on-the-job accidents because they fear that they would not receive their incentive (or, worse, this could create discord amongst your employees if some should feel that others are responsible for them not receiving their incentive). In order to counter this, OSHA recommends creating a program that encourages or even rewards honesty. In fact, OSHA issued a directive on this subject.  We strongly encourage that you click here to read their memo on the subject, as it gives actionable advice on what to do and not do when constructing an employee motivation program.

Try these strategies

A successful program, while implementing incentives, will not be solely about the rewards; rather, the rewards will simply be a mechanism that leads the employees to safe practices. Because of this, when you develop your safety program do not just offer rewards for good results. Instead, offer incentives for those who you see exhibiting good behavior. Safety Business & Legal Resources has found that companies with behavior-based incentive programs on average reduce their injuries by 50 percent in one year, and greatly reduce their insurance premiums as well. If you focus only on outcomes (such as a lack of incidents), then it is likely that you could just lead to a downturn in injury reporting.

In a recent case study, the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation revealed that one of its requirements to receive the incentive was that each team submit at least fifteen reports per quarter of “near-misses”, or potential workplace accidents. In addition, we strongly encourage that you maintain an open line of communication with your employees in order to ensure that they are responding well to the program.

If your workplace has a sizeable millennial population, consider introducing gamification into your safety strategy. Game-inspired elements – such as challenges, rankings, and, of course, rewards – have been shown to improve engagement and performance. For example, AstraZeneca recently utilized an e-learning platform to teach its employees about new products, and saw a 97 percent engagement rate. If this is something that you would be interested in implementing in your workplace, we offer a gamification module in our full version of Compass RMS and would be more than happy to assist you with your workplace safety efforts. Safety is all about engagement and your safety motivation program needs to be designed to increase, improve, and reward engagement.  

Endorse the behavior you want to see in your workplace!


About Compass RMS

The risk management firm Risk Management, Inc. has specialized in workers’ compensation since 1996, creating the CWCP (Certified Workers’ Compensation Professional) program in 1999 and the P4 process in 2000. We launched our Compass Risk Management platform in 2008 and recently released version 4.0. For more information about our services, give us a call at (770) 534-2042 to speak with one of our consultants.