Course 700 - Introduction to Safety Management

Element 3: Involvement


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:

  1. complying with safety rules;
  2. reporting workplace injuries immediately; and
  3. reporting hazards.

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.

1. Which of the following is a voluntary behavior that should be strongly encouraged by the employer?

a. Reporting injuries
b. Making safety suggestions
c. Reporting hazards
d. Complying with safety rules

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Employee Involvement


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:

What does it look like?

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.

What does it require?

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

2. According to Michael Topf, what must occur for a safety improvement process to be self-sustaining and successful?

a. It must refresh at least annually
b. It must use limited resources and statistics
c. It must be driven top-down by management
d. It should become a seamless part of the organization

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Successful Recognition Programs


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.

3. When do safety recognition programs work best?

a. When they exist within a culture of strong tough-caring leadership
b. When management mandates regular employee participation in the program
c. When employees feel safe submitting suggestions anonymously
d. When employees are recognized annually for complying with safety rules

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Recognition and Rewards

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.

Examples of extrinsic and intrinsic rewards:

Extrinsic rewards are tangible and external. You can touch, eat, see, smell, or otherwise use them.

  • Money - raise, bonus, stocks
  • Awards - plaques, pins, cups, certificates, jackets
  • Trips
  • Time off from work
  • Social - parties, lunches

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.

  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increased sense of purpose
  • Higher credibility
  • Feeling of accomplishment

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.

4. Which of the following is an example of an extrinsic reward?

a. A bonus
b. Improved credibility
c. A greater sense of purpose
d. A feeling of accomplishment

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Effective Recognition - Simple and Sincere


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:

  • identify the behavior so the recipient knows specifically why they are being rewarded, and
  • show appreciation in the right way so the recipient feels appreciated.

For more information on effective recognition check out Steve Geigle's Rules for Radical Recognition.

You Get What You Give

The familiar adage, "you get what you give," certainly applies when recognizing employees.

  • If you're sincere in your appreciation for a job well done, your heart-felt sincerity will come across in the tone of your voice and through body language. The recipient will sense it and feel appreciated. Your recognition will achieve the desired effect with lasting positive results. Mission accomplished!
  • If you're not sincere when you express appreciation, the recipient will know it, and you’ll not likely receive a sincere appreciative response or improvement in future performance. Hence, your recognition will not have the desired effect: in fact, if the recipient thinks the recognition is not sincere, it may be counterproductive in terms of morale and performance. Mission failure!

Check out this short audio clip by Steve Geigle discussing the difference between policy-driven and heart-driven recognition.

5. The secret to effective recognition is to _____.

a. wait until the next meeting
b. identify the behavior and show appreciation
c. delegate it to another person
d. tell other employees about it

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Reactive Safety Incentive Programs

Reactive safety program

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.

Hiding Injuries

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.

6. Which behavior is actually rewarded in a reactive incentive program?

a. Reporting injuries
b. Withholding injury reports
c. Working safely
d. Submitting injury claims

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Proactive Safety Recognition Programs


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:

  1. required - mandated by the employer and/or OSHA regulations, and
  2. encouraged - not required not required but promoted by the employer.

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:

  • personally conducting regular safety inspections;
  • responding to unsafe behaviors; and
  • requiring safety training for affected employees.

Employee required behaviors include:

  • following company and OSHA safety rules;
  • inspecting fall protection before use; and
  • reporting work-related injuries and illnesses.

Behaviors the employer encourages include:

  • making safety suggestions;
  • participating in safety (committees, teams, events, etc); and
  • reporting hazards and unsafe behaviors (without naming names).

The Benefits of Proactive Programs

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.

7. Which of the following safety behaviors is proactive?

a. Failing to report an accident
b. Correcting a hazard
c. Administering first aid
d. Disciplining for noncompliance

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Proactive Recognition Programs That Work


Employers use many varieties of safety incentive programs: some work and some don't. Below is a list of proven successful safety incentive programs that you can implement in your company.

  • Safety Bucks: Supervisors carry safety bucks, and when they see someone doing something right, they reward them.
  • Bonus Programs: When an employee identifies a hazard in the workplace that could cause serious physical harm or a fatality, they are rewarded with a bonus check.
  • Safety Heroes: After an extended period of time, employees are recognized for complying with company safety rules.
  • Reporting hazards, incidents and injuries: Wait a minute: do I mean that employees should be recognized for reporting injuries? That's right: Both the individual and the company win if the employee reports injuries immediately.
  • Safety Leadership Programs: Employers recognize employees who show safety leadership by including comments about leadership in their performance appraisals and offering other career advancement incentives.

What about the suggestion box?

We do not recommend the use of a suggestion box because it's not effective most of the time because employees may consider the suggestion box a waste of time or proof-positive that management doesn't care. Below are some reasons why:

  • Reviewers ignore the box: If reviewers do not check suggestion boxes frequently, employees will think, "Why bother, management doesn't care." Reviewers must check suggestions boxes daily.
  • Frustration with suggestions: Reviewers may see suggestions as complaints of poor quality, and unimportant. However, to the submitter, the suggestion is always important.
  • Untimely feedback: Safety committees, supervisors, and other reviewers take too long to provide feedback.
  • Reviewers ignore employees: Reviewers ignore employees who submit suggestions. Reviewers should recognize everyone who submits a suggestion, no matter how insignificant they consider them.
  • Anonymity: Telling those who submit suggestions they may withhold their identity tells everyone there may be a good reason to do so. Anonymity is a warning sign that a lack of trust exists. In a world-class safety culture, employees do not submit suggestions anonymously because they know that doing so only results in positive recognition: nothing else.

8. Which of the following will increase overall participation in safety recognition programs?

a. Display an "Employee of the Quarter" photo
b. Include achievements in performance appraisals
c. Always recognize the top performer
d. Be sure recognition occurs at least annually

Check your Work

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.

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