The Real Deal
- By Jerry Laws
- Apr 01, 2010
Big or small. Industrial or white collar.
Low-hazard jobs or high-hazard jobs. In
all of these, a smartly designed and executed
safety incentive program will work
well and fairly quickly, said Sean Roark, CPIM,
senior vice president of PromoPros Inc. of Spring,
He cited Kellogg Company, the iconic Battle
Creek, Mich.-based cereal company, which is
spending about $1,100 per employee now for about
30,000 employees and believes it is achieving a
return on investment of better than 200 percent,
Roark said. "But if you are a five-person company,
you can change your culture with a safety incentive
program," he added.
"The gold standard, in our opinion, is a wellmanaged
point system," he said. "And it functions
best in an environment where safety is a primary
consideration. We will find, oft entimes, that a company
that has a great safety program, we can talk
with them about their length-of-service program,
we can talk with them about their health and wellness
program. And we can come up with a viable
program where the employees who are not as affected
as others by safety [hazards] every five years
are eligible to be recognized for length of service.
And if in fact a company really wants to save some
huge money, they may put in place a program to
improve employees' health and wellness."
Even with bailed-out banks' bonuses raising
tempers, travel remains a very popular reward. The
more it appears the employer has been thoughtful
about choosing the award, the better it works at
motivating desirable behavior, Roark said.
"We find that, very oft en, our first meeting is
with a Certified Safety Professional. One of the
things they're looking for from us is a way to communicate
this to a chief operating officer or a chief
financial officer who says 'We can't afford this kind
of program,'" he said.
Often, these contacts had prior experience with
a program that did not work at some other company.
But that is less true in the safety profession, said
Roark. A segment of the safety community needs
no convincing about safety incentives' power because
many in the community have seen dramatic
improvements in their results from integrating
safety rewards into their programs, he explained.
This works, he said, because safety engineers
and safety managers are trusted by their senior
managements to save money from the programs
they advocate. Still, it is very important that the
safety incentive be a turnkey solution because the
engineers and managers will run into trouble if
they recommend a program to senior management
and ask for personnel to administer it.
Turnkey Program with Employer Control
He recommends using a program that offers points
for various contributions, including small ones
such as volunteering to serve on a safety committee
or attending a safety meeting. These are a modest
cost for the employer, but they work.
The employer controls who is eligible and
which activities can deliver points. The points
system also maintains a connection between the
awarded prize and the party awarding it — the employer.
As Roark outlined the program, the plant
manager carries a voucher book around with him/
her. PromoPros maintains the program metrics,
showing the actions for each worker's point total.
Managers can award points on the spot. When the
worker checks for his/her points balance, the computer
screen offers congratulations along with the
new point total.
Everybody on a particular team will earn
monthly points. There are also team points, which
encourage employees to step forward and correct/
"We aren't a program that's going to discourage
[injury or incident] reporting. We're not a program
that's going to drain cash flow," Roark said. "We believe
if you start with us at the beginning of a calendar
year, within that calendar year you're going
to at least start to see a positive ROI — in other
words, not a negative cash flow. In the second year,
you'll see a reduction in cost because you have the
program in place.
"In the end, the compelling argument that
brings people around is, they're going to be able
to see results from this in a pretty short cycle.
We're not telling people, 'Boy, the third year aft er you start this, you're going to see results.'
We're telling people that the tangible
results are going to be evident pretty
quickly," which appeals to a CEO or
CFO, he said.
Points might be structured
differently for a workforce that commonly
does high-risk jobs, such as delivering
fuel, than for a business whose
employees work at computers in an offi
ce building. Yet an incentive program
can be designed to succeed in either
kind of work environment, in a large
company or a small one, even if times are
"There's no better time to do this
than when you're going through tightening
your belt because of the speed with
which you're going to see benefits from
the program," Roark said.
This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.