Encouraging Employee Participation in Safety Programs

“I wish we could get more participation in our Safety Programs from our employees.” How many of you Safety guys have uttered this phrase? I’m willing to bet a lot that nearly every single one of you have said this or something very similar to it. Encouraging employee participation is critical for any safety program to succeed.

Employees need positive encouragement to do safe things. First, let me clarify what positive encouragement or reinforcement means. It does mean acting in a positive way at work, such as saying nice things to employees, showing that you care about their safe work, etc. However, positive reinforcement is whatever encourages safe behavior. We can give all the pats on the back that we want, but if a pat on the back doesn’t encourage safe behavior, it’s not positive encouragement or reinforcement.

Reward employees for working safely. Do not reward employees for not having accidents. If you want a particular behavior to stop, introducing a safety incentive program will not change the behavior.

Example: your company has several vehicle incidents in a short amount of time and you introduce a safety game with a prize at the end of the game for the employees that do not have a vehicle incident. What do you think the issues will be with this safety incentive program?

Rewarding the people without an incident doesn’t actually reward safe behavior or working safely. It only rewards those employees that did not have an accident, which may not be due to safe behavior. Employers must reward the employees that are working safely for the bad behaviors to cease.

Celebrating milestones in any company is exciting, but you need to make sure that those milestones aren’t misleading. Going 350 days without an accident is great, but you should take the time to quantify those 350 days. How many hours have your employees worked in those 350 days? How many miles have they driven for work? How much have you produced in those 350 days? How many jobs have your employees finished in those days? Those are all important aspects of going those 350 days without an incident. Anyone can go 350 days without an accident if they aren’t doing anything.  Little details like this show your employees that you are paying attention to what they are doing and that you care about their performance and safety. By bringing in these extra components, you can give morale a boost and make your employees feel like they are making a difference in their workplace.

Your ultimate goal for employee participation in safety programs is that the employees are actively safe all the time, and they are safe for themselves, not because of a reward. Safety is done by the employees because they know that working safely at work will get them home safely at night. This is what we, as safety professionals, want to see in every company.


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