Proactive Encouragement

Incentives can boost your training's quality and benefit your bottom line.

It’s no secret that the cost to acquire worker’s compensation insurance is extremely expensive in the United States. Every day, employers deal with these rising costs, as well as the related costs of injury pay. Employers spent approximately $50.8 billion in 2003 on wage payments and medical care for workers hurt on the job, according to Liberty Mutual, a leading global insurer.

The best way to control the cost of worker’s compensation insurance premiums is to avoid injury claims, according to the article “How Can You Control Workers’ Compensation Costs?” (which was posted on www.all business.com). Additionally, the article states that a safe environment, effective safety training, and ongoing programs to promote safe work habits are keys to preventing employee injury.

Implementing a good safety program can take a great deal of background research to see what will be most effective for an organization. The use of a traditional safety incentive program—one that rewards employees for a period of time with “no accidents”—has been a standard practice for many years. However, some companies are wary of implementing a “traditional” safety incentive program because they feel these programs only prevent employees from reporting an injury/problem and don’t encourage proactive behavior.

Safety author Randy DeVaul, writing in the January/ February 2007 issue of MCMagazine (from the National Precast Concrete Association), put it this way:“Too often,employees choose to not report something because of the backlash or reprimand that occurs from management if an injury occurs. Having bonuses or incentives tied to zero injuries and losing them when an injury does occur enhances the no-reporting practice by both employees and managers. You do not want that to be the common practice, as you are waiting for a fatality to happen and you’ll never see it coming.”

Rewarding Proactive Behavior
The best way to avoid this trap is to reward proactive behavior— not just X amount of time with no accidents, but rewarding for attending training, offering process improvement suggestions, promoting safety awareness, etc. According to the 2005 Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, 26.6 percent of CFOs stated “better training” as their number one preferred safety intervention.

If better training is the primary goal, what is the most effective way to structure a program? According to OSHA, safety and health management best practices include these items:

• Establish and communicate a clear goal for the safety and health program and objectives for meeting that goal.

• Provide visible top management involvement in implementing the program.

• Encourage employee involvement in the structure and operation of the program and in decisions that affect their safety and health.

Once parameters are established, you then need to determine how to create a culture of involvement and excitement for the program(s). What do you reward with, and how do you keep program costs under control? A 2003 study from the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE) Foundation found that employee performance is markedly better when in pursuit of a non-cash incentive. Participants working toward a non-cash incentive improved performance by 38.6 percent, while there was only a 14.6 percent lift created by a cash incentive.Many companies are opting for non-cash incentives, including merchandise, gift cards, and travel, because the value of these rewards far outweighs the cost, especially when it comes to merchandise incentives.

Merchandise is a very cost-effective, economical choice for incentive rewards. Many branded products available in the incentive industry are offered through brand (or manufacturer) representatives. The benefits are:

Cost savings. Manufacturer representatives have the ability to provide the “factory direct” price for the merchandise, so companies pay significantly less than if they were to purchase at retail.

Logistics. Manufacturer representatives can ship merchandise directly to the employee, eliminating the operational headache.

Variety. Manufacturer representatives offer many different brands and product lines, so companies have a choice of incentive offerings sourced through one contact.

Keys to Successful Safety Culture
Knowing the components of a safety incentive campaign and evaluating those campaigns to see what ultimately works the best for your company are the keys to developing a successful safety culture now and in the future. A properly structured safety incentive program not only encourages employees to perform well, but also helps to reduce compensation costs, thus increasing the bottom line.

This article originally appeared in the June 2008 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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