Deciding whether to incentivize safety in the workplace can be tough, especially if you’ve been struggling with employee injuries and accidents. However, the Environment, Health, and Safety organization, or EHS, has some handy tips that can help you decide on the best course of action for your place of business.

The Trouble with Existing Incentives

When it comes to safety incentives at work, the biggest problem isn’t that they shouldn’t exist – it’s that they just don’t work the way employers expect them to work. Giving an employee a financial reward, or even providing them with something tangible, can be tough. When you incentivize things in this manner, the workplace won’t necessarily become safer. Rather, it’s far more likely that accidents will be under-reported. This has been confirmed in almost every single industry, and in some cases, accidents and insurance claims even went up in the face of tangible or financial safety incentives.

At the end of the day, employees aren’t as concerned with their own safety (or the safety of their coworkers, for that matter) as they are with getting some extra cash or a nice reward to take home to their families. They are more likely to make incidents seem like “no big deal” or even pretend their own injuries are less catastrophic than they are, which can lead to serious issues down the line.

Alternatives to Financial and “Gift” Incentives

Because it’s been proven time and again that such incentives do very little to actually improve safety or compliance in the workplace, consider an alternative that does work. This might include:

  • Involving your employees. Ask your employees how they feel about their safety and invite them to participate on committees or in meetings so they feel that their voices can be heard. 
  • Setting high expectations. If you don’t have any expectations, your employees aren’t going to try to meet them. Instead, be very clear about your expectations and remind your employees – even those in leadership positions – that you expect them to follow guidelines. 
  • Allowing personal goalsetting. Giving your employees the autonomy to set their own goals – even if their only goal involves going home at the end of the day without being injured. They care more about the goals they set for themselves than any goal set for them. 
  • Getting management involved. Make sure that every leader in your organization is 100% committed to keeping your employees safe. Be certain that every leader is following the safety guidelines, listening to their teams, and giving employees the chance to be heard. 
  • Making safety one of your organization’s main values. Production and profits are important, but these should never be more important than the people working to help you with that production. Let your employees know that their safety comes first and that you are committed to preventing injuries. 

Safety incentives themselves are wonderful, but only when they are the right incentives, and only when they give employees a reason to get themselves involved. Cash and gifts are great, but they can cause more problems than they solve. Instead, try involving your employees in safety – and try making it just as important as your profits. This is where the true realization occurs.

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