Five Common Safety Mistakes Companies Make
The primary aim of safety achievement programs is zero recordable accidents, and for decades, most recognition programs have rewarded employees for going 1 quarter, 1 year, 5 years, etc., without these accidents. But how do we know our employees are working safely? How do we know they are not just lucky? A comprehensive safety program should focus on employee buy-in, and concentrate on the exact behaviors necessary to create and maintain a safe working environment. Rewards should then be linked to these behaviors, and be given as close to the event as possible.
Cash is a good motivator
Cash is a good motivator – the first time it is used, and perhaps the second. However, it is unemotional, and all too often gets merged with funds to pay utilities or other various expenses. Where is the trophy value? Where is the pride of achievement or that peer validation? Empirical evidence continues to prove that monetary awards must exceed 8%-12% of an employee’s income to become a significant motivator beyond the short term. Lastly, cash is 100% taxable to the employee while symbolic, merchandise, and travel incentives aren’t when part of a qualified program.
Forgetting About Awareness
Did you know that 95% of what you learn today will be forgotten within 30 days? Did you know it usually take 20 repetitions or “exposures” to truly learn something and take it to heart? Where is your safety training going? Comprehensive safety programs should concentrate on simple concepts and maximum exposure. These concepts should be represented on signage, awareness/ promotional materials, etc.; and make sure to concentrate on one concept at a time. Additionally, safety programs with themes and special characters increase awareness and memory (sometimes up to 3X) as well.
Rewarding Only Annually (or worse, in 5 year increments)
While consulting with a certain manufacturing company in the Southwest, we discovered that they rewarded safety only in increments of 5 year intervals. This company had a solid safety training program, monthly meetings, safety banners, etc. Employees with the longest safety seniority received the best parking spaces, and large cash bonuses with symbolic awards every 5 years. One employee was one month away from his 20 year award. Through no fault of his own, he was struck by a car while in the parking lot, resulting in a lost bonus (which he now perceived as earned income) and his safety seniority. He was now at the back of the line. Do you think he feels motivated to support company values and safe practices now? Although an extreme example, for this and similar reasons, employees may not report accidents, or worse, hide evidence of accidents. Periodic awards have their place and should be utilized within a comprehensive safety program, but should not be the largest part of the investment.
No Measurement Apparatus (or insufficient measurement apparatus)
Before starting or changing a safety program, a company must first measure its current reality (i.e. what happens if we do nothing). Secondly, this new program must measure the right things. Every program must measure at least two criteria – the goal itself (i.e. the reduction in accidents) and the employee’s compliance with safety procedures. Both of these criteria are both qualifiable and quantifiable; and by measuring both, a company will not only be able to measure real cost savings (accident reduction, lost time, insurance costs, etc.), it will see the correlation between compliance and results. Any variance will spotlight the areas that need to be addressed by changes in training, communication, or rewards.
Posted on Wed, September 3, 2008
by Kurt McDowell filed under