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Product Focus: Incentives

Trends in ... incentives

Effective and compliant

August 24, 2013

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In “The Essential Elements of Effective Workplace Programs and Policies for Improving Worker Health and Wellbeing,” NIOSH states that workplace incentives and rewards can have a positive effect on worker participation. “Incentives and rewards ... for individual program participation may encourage engagement,” notes the document, published in 2008. However, it goes on to warn that “poorly designed incentives may create a sense of ‘winners’ and ‘losers.’”

Further, in 2012, OSHA administrator David Michaels expressed support for incentives programs that reward employees for demonstrating safe work practices and reporting potential hazards, but stressed that the agency has strong concerns about programs that are predominately based on injury and illness statistics. So what can companies do to create an effective safety incentives program?

Richard Flynn, director MIH for Shelby, NC-based C.A. Short, advises safety pros looking to establish a safety incentives program to consult an expert to ensure the program is OSHA-compliant. “There are best practices that should be followed, and it is important to start any program off on the right foot regarding leading versus lagging indicators,” Flynn said.

Frank Medina, assistant brand manager for Kansas City, MO-based Applebee’s Services Inc., said that for an incentive program to be effective, the safety pro must really know his or her employees. “It’s of utmost importance that the incentive actually be viewed as a true incentive by the recipient,” Medina said.

Another important aspect of an incentives program is managing it. “The importing of data has become a two- or three-step process and can usually be handled in minutes rather than the many hours that it once took to manage a program,” Flynn said. “The metrics of leading indicators are easier to track and even easier to report back to management.”

However, Flynn cautioned against losing the human aspect of the incentives program. “An email saying ‘thanks for leading a safety meeting’ will never be as effective as a manager going out of their way to recognize that behavior in person – and ideally in front of the employee’s peers.” Flynn said. “The personal touch cannot be replaced by technology.”

Compiled with the assistance of the International Safety Equipment Association

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