For much longer than many people realize, employee engagement has been the driving factor in not only safety, but performance in general.

Safety Incentive and Reward Programs Can Help Increase Work Safety

Ultimately, one of the keys to ensuring job satisfaction and happiness in the workplace is by celebrating your employees’ achievements.

According to The National Safety Council, nearly 13,000 American workers are injured each day while on the job—and each injury is preventable. This statistic is staggering, especially when you consider the positive impact workplace safety education and training programs can have on reducing this figure. The problem? Motivating employees to participate and use the workplace safety protocols they've learned throughout their work day.

According to the NSC, employers that show they care about the safety of their employees see improved morale, increased productivity, lower costs and, most importantly, fewer injuries. One way to show appreciation is to offer incentives for employees to attend workplace safety education and training sessions and recognize those employees for meeting safety goals and service milestones.

Employees appreciate "tangible" rewards.  Recognition of key achievements goes a long way toward reinforcing safe behaviors and showing appreciation when safety goals and milestones are met. According to the Performance Improvement Council, when people are surveyed to determine why they left a job, "lack of recognition" and "compensation" consistently rank as the top two reasons, regardless of economic conditions.

Providing recognition in a timely manner—either on the spot or during key events where employees are recognized in front of their peers—shows employees they are appreciated for being safe and ensuring they maintain a safe work environment.

While cash is appreciated, recognition in the form of cash often may not be used by the recipients to purchase a gift for themselves. More likely, cash may be used to stretch a monthly budget. Gift cards give the recipient on opportunity to splurge on themselves, thus making the recognition more meaningful. Gift cards are more popular among employees than other forms of non-cash recognition.

According to a recent study by Incentive magazine, eight out of 10 employees report that they prefer gift cards over other incentives.

  • Gift cards offer choice and flexibility. Most gift cards have no fees or expiration dates and are convenient and easy to give as on-the-spot incentives.
  • Gift cards can be shared with family and friends, making the redemption of the gift card a memorable event.
  • It's easy to customize gift cards with a company logo or message. By adding the company logo on a gift card, the employee associates the gift card with your company and acts as a way of reinforcing the recognition he or she received.

Most recently, a 2016 incentive study released by the Incentive Federation revealed gift cards are the most prevalent reward type in all programs except customer loyalty, which has a similarly high incidence of award points.1 

Additionally, a recent analysis of National Gift Card's U.S.-based programs revealed that nearly three-quarters of all gift card redemptions in safety, loyalty, and rewards programs come from just three categories:

  • Big Box retailers (29 percent). In fact, just eight national retailers account for more than one out of four gift cards redeemed through loyalty programs.
  • Open Loop reward cards, such as VISA and American Express (23 percent)
  • Entertainment gift cards, such as iTunes, GameStop, Regal Theaters, etc. (10 percent)

They also found that:

  • Gift cards in the Home Improvement (6 percent), Casual Dining (6 percent), and Department Store categories (5 percent) occupy the redemption middle ground. Casual Dining, as a category, accounted for 40 individual brands.
  • The lowest gift card redemption in B2B programs occurs in the Sports & Wellness (1.5 percent), Grocery/Pharmacy (1 percent), and Travel (0.5 percent) categories.
  • Closed Loop gift cards (cards that may be spent at a specific retailer) outpace Open Loop gift cards 4 to 1.

Ultimately, one of the keys to ensuring job satisfaction and happiness in the workplace is by celebrating your employees' achievements. Whether your company is large or small, it's important to show employees you care about their safety and the efforts they take daily to be safe on the job.

1. Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study conducted by Intellective Group, St. Louis, Mo., July 2016,
2. Using gift card incentives to drive employee engagement,
3. Every Worker Deserves to Make it Home Safe from Work—Every Day,
4. Workplace injuries infographic,
5. Performance Improvement Council, “The Four Pillars of Safety,” white paper March 2014,

This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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