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Safety Incentive Programs

Quick Tips #114

A safety incentive program helps reduce losses organizations experience from accidents. Reducing accidents and lost-time injuries through a rewards, or incentive program is a typical goal. An effective safety incentive program defines objectives, sets goals, plans and assigns responsibility and accountability, and implements and manages the program goals.

Define Objectives
  1. Focus attention where incidents are occurring.
  2. Gather the appropriate personnel and analyze your company's incident/injury rates and subsequent lost-work times.

This will help identify the areas that need to be focused on and give the background necessary to set reasonable goals.

Involve everyone, especially management. Management’s involvement and support is vital to set the tone for employees. It is a morale boost to have everyone at the same level. Encourage employees to be involved by submitting ideas or reward any individual who points out safety hazards. For example, if a frayed or worn extension cord is turned in to the safety director, reward that individual for keeping an eye out for safety.

Choose a Format

Select the type of activities for the safety incentive program meetings, like contests, posters, awards and promotional materials. Get to know the needs of the supervisors and the employees, then select activities that will yield results. One way to get information from workers is to take an inventory or a survey of opinions. A safety suggestion box is another tool used to solicit ideas.

There are many different ideas for safety incentive programs. The non-injury rate contest focuses on the safe worker and safe work practices. All employee names are included in the competition. During the contest period, each worker found performing an unsafe act or not wearing required protective equipment has his/her name removed. To maintain credibility, those experiencing recordable injuries would also be eliminated from the drawing.

Another type of contest is the slogan or poster contest. The safety slogan contest can be for the best safety slogan submitted by an employee. Employee-made safety posters can also be a good way to display safety slogans. Have the employees and even their families participate in the planning and judging stages. Frequently, employee poster ideas are so good that companies submit the winning contest entries to the National Safety Council for possible conversion into printed safety posters.

Keep in mind that awards for contests and programs should be meaningful. An award serves several purposes: an inducement, a good-will builder, a reminder or a publicity tool. To gain interest, one company was able to get a local automobile agency to loan them a new car. An injury-free employee whose name was drawn from a hat drove the car for a week. The employee had a special Reserved for John Doe parking space in the company lot. The only cost to the employer was a few dollars to cover special insurance. A special parking space awarded on a rotating basis can also be effective.

Another way to gain interest is to let the employees participate in selecting the awards, planning the presentation of the awards and helping with publicity of the safety incentive program. Frequently, employees will suggest a humorous or novel award or publicity approach that may attract more interest than an award planned by management. Payment of bonuses as awards for good safety records evokes considerable difference of opinion. Some management and safety people feel that this approach is unwarranted as all employees are paid to work safely. Others believe it can enhance an already successful program.

Safety and health directors initially coordinate the program by supplying ideas and inspiration, while earning the support of management, supervision and employees. Safety and health directors help educate supervisors to be more aware of working conditions and ensure they are kept as safe as possible. They are responsible for workers following the safest procedures. The National Safety Council has many publications to assist safety directors with safety program material.

Maintaining Interest

The supervisor plays an important role in creating and maintaining interest in a safety awareness program. A supervisor is responsible for translating management’s policies into action and for promoting safety activities directly among the employees. It is the responsibility of management that the safety director and supervisors receive adequate safety training. Essentially, supervisors are directly accountable for the safety of their employees. The supervisor's attitude toward safety is a significant factor in the success not only of specific promotional activities, but of the entire safety program as well.

Safety Committees

Safety committees play a key role in the safety program as they normally consist of elected or voluntary employees from various departments. The main function of a safety committee is to create and maintain interest in safety and health, thereby helping to reduce accidents. Safety committee membership should be rotated periodically. Rotation allows for new viewpoints while it increases the number of employees to look at operations through the eyes of safety.

Commonly Asked Questions
Q.   Does OSHA have a regulation on incentive programs?
A.   No, OSHA does not have a regulation on incentive programs. OSHA leaves that up to the employers to decide whether or not the facility has an incentive program. It is a fact that safety incentive programs do substantially reduce the amount of net losses a company may experience.



National Safety Council
1121 Spring Lake Drive
Itasca, IL 60143-3201
(800) 621-7615

The Bureau of National Affairs
9435 Key West Ave.
Rockville, MD 20850
(800) 372-1033

(Rev. 1/2013)

Find even more information you can use to help make informed decisions about the regulatory issues you face in your workplace every day. View all Quick Tips Technical Resources at

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Please Note:
The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This publication is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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