18 April 2008
This is management's most effective tool to motivate employee safety behavior. When safety is rewarded by recognition, it gets your employees' attention. By having all employees, levels of management and supervisors accountable for safety related activities, goals, and results that are obtainable and measurable, your company will see a safety culture develop.
There are two ways to recognize employees for their safety performance: social recognition and tangible rewards.
Social recognition can include a pat on the back, positive verbal or written praise, or recognition in front of peers. It is best to use this form of recognition immediately following the desired behavior. This will have a positive impact as a motivational tool.
Tangible rewards can include awards such as banquets, merchandise, or money. These rewards provide employees short-term satisfaction. They do not always motivate a behavioral change. If you provide these awards to your employees, the criteria for winning should be measured based on safety behavioral performance, not luck. Just because the crew went 60 days without an accident does not mean the crew is working safely. Be sure to measure the safety activities and safety behavior criteria.
The worst case scenario is a supervisor and crew receiving an award for zero accidents for one year. Perhaps the employees had no accidents, but they were not holding safety meetings, pre-planning safety into their daily work tasks or documenting near misses. They were lucky instead of good.
The big problem with this safety behavior is that the supervisor and employees think they are doing the right things because they were rewarded.