It’s difficult to have an effective safety and health program without developing a corporate safety culture that encourages genuine employee involvement. As we discovered in the previous module, the employer holds employees accountable for three personal behaviors:
We also learned that, although OSHA does not mandate employee involvement in safety committees and making suggestions, employers should encourage them. It makes sense for the company to develop policies that promote these employee behaviors.
This module will explore effective ways to increase employee involvement in workplace safety. We’ll primarily address effective recognition because, as we learned earlier, we do what we do to either avoid negative consequences or receive positive consequences. Recognition, as a positive consequence, can be quite effective in increasing involvement in safety.
Michael D. Topf, founder and president of TOPF Initiatives, has extensive experience in consulting as well as designing and conducting training courses in executive leadership. Let's see what he has to say about employee involvement:
Employee involvement means participation by employees at every level. When used as part of the term employee ownership, "employee" does not refer uniquely to line or hourly workers, but to everyone involved in the organization at every level and in every department.
For any safety, health and environmental improvement process to be self-sustaining and successful, it should become a seamless part of the organization. This is doubly true if the desired result is for employees to feel ownership. We must see the process and its benefits as having value for the employees, their families and others in the company.
Reference: Why Employee Involvement May Not Be Enough. Topf, Michael D. Occupational Hazards. May 2000, Vol. 62 Issue 5, p41. 2p. 1
There are many types of safety recognition programs promoted these days. Of course, some are more effective than others, but there is certainly no one-fits-all program. To be successful, the recognition program must fit the unique culture of the organization.
For instance, you can't expect a lot of participation in safety recognition program in a coercive corporate culture. It just won't work. In a world-class safety culture, managers will probably see recognition as their opportunity to establish positive working relationships.
Safety recognition programs work best when they exist within a culture of strong tough-caring leadership. However, if your company does not have a formal safety recognition program, effective informal safety incentives and recognition may still be in place. In the best-case scenario, the company may not need a formal program if its leaders informally provide meaningful incentives and recognition, one-on-one to their employees.
To determine the need for incentives and recognition, evaluate the quality of leadership in your company. To improve leadership, introduce the ideas in this module. They will help move the corporate culture towards strong safety leadership.
Safety rewards come in many colors, flavors, and varieties. We are all motivated by primarily two types of rewards: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic rewards are tangible and external. You can touch, eat, see, smell, or otherwise use them. On the other hand, intrinsic rewards are intangible, internal, and housed within us.
Click the button to see examples of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards.
Extrinsic rewards are tangible and external. You can touch, eat, see, smell, or otherwise use them.
Intrinsic rewards are intangible, internal, and housed within us. They are expressed through the positive recognition other give us and the positive thoughts think about ourselves.
Now, consider this: Is it the tangible reward, itself, that changes behavior, or is it the underlying recognition - the intangible reward - you receive that matters most? Like many others, you probably think it's the recognition behind the reward is most important, and we agree. We like to be recognized and appreciated for what we do by people who are important to us. It makes us feel valuable, important, and a part of a team: something bigger than ourselves.
When designing safety recognition programs, it's important to remember it's not the tangible "thing" awarded to the recipient that determines the effectiveness of the recognition. The secret to truly effective recognition is to:
For more information on effective recognition check out Steve Geigle's Rules for Radical Recognition.
The familiar adage, "you get what you give," certainly applies when recognizing employees.
Check out this short audio clip by Steve Geigle discussing the difference between policy-driven and heart-driven recognition.
In Module One, we learned about the concepts reactive and proactive safety programs. Safety incentive programs can be both reactive and/or proactive, depending on the behaviors that are being recognized and rewarded.
Believe it or not, most companies unknowingly have reactive safety incentive programs that reward inappropriate behaviors. What is the most common inappropriate behavior? Read on.
That's right! Look for a banner that proclaims, "80,000 hours without an accident!" When you see that, you'll know the company is rewarding its employees for withholding injury reports. Actually, the banner should state, "80,000 hours without a reported accident." It doesn't mean the workplace is accident free: only that accidents are not being reported. In reality, the workplace is likely full of injured employees, the "walking wounded," who don't report accidents.
The problem is that employees hide their injuries because they want to be considered loyal team players. They don't want to ruin the safety record for their department. Sometimes, the peer pressure is so great they will keep their injury a secret until the pain becomes so severe that they miss work and must report it. The actual number of injuries in the workplace may decline, but the severity of each injury increases. Nobody wins.
Of course, a reactive program does not purposely encourage or promote non-reporting, but because the inherent strategy is flawed, it functions to do just that. So, let's see how we can improve the incentive program so that it's truly effective.
Companies need to know that the most effective safety recognition programs promote proactive behaviors that help to prevent accidents. Proactive recognition programs reward employee behaviors that are:
While reactive safety programs function only to minimize the negative impact of accidents that have already occurred, proactive programs function to prevent future accidents. Bottom-line, It’s much more important recognize proactive behaviors.
Click the button to see examples of proactive safety behaviors for managers, employees, and everyone.
Examples of proactive required and encouraged behaviors below.
Supervisor and manager required behaviors include:
Employee required behaviors include:
Behaviors the employer encourages include:
When employers recognize proactive behaviors, not only do the number of accidents decrease, involvement in safety and health increases. Everyone is more aware, interested, and involved in uncovering hazardous conditions, unsafe behaviors, and safety management system weaknesses. The company benefits from lower accident costs, higher morale, and greater production.
Employers use many varieties of safety incentive programs: some work and some don’t. Click on the button to see a list of proven successful safety incentive programs that you can implement in your company.
We do not recommend the use of a suggestion box because it's not effective most of the time and there are many reasons for that. Click on the buttons to see some reasons suggestion boxes don't work and to see some student feedback.
The suggestion box can be effective; rarely. But in most instances employees consider the suggestion box a useless joke, a waste of time, and proof-positive that management “just doesn’t care.” Here are some reasons:
I set up a new suggestion box at my last office. Employees were informed it was there to use for any suggestions they may have. I would check it once a day and they could either sign their suggestion or not. All suggestions would be looked into and [the] person making the suggestion would be advised of the outcome within (5) days or, if the suggestion was unsigned, the outcome would be announced at our next safety meeting.
Because of the feeling it was all a big joke anyway and no one really cared, only one person in 12 months made a suggestion. I handled it just as I said I would. If the employee's suggestion was such that I could fix it without getting approval, I did so. Didn't seem to encourage others. The real problem was they had heard it all before and just didn't believe anymore.
One last note: Because it's so important, we want to reemphasize the point that your recognition programs will be more successful if you include safety achievements in employee performance appraisals. Make sure you do this.
Read the material in each section to find the correct answer to each quiz question. After answering all the questions, click on the "Check Quiz Answers" button to grade your quiz and see your score. You will receive a message if you forgot to answer one of the questions. After clicking the button, the questions you missed will be listed below. You can correct any missed questions and check your answers again.
Watch this video to see the very best incentive program for guaranteeing employee motivation, productivity, and engagement.