According to OSHA, businesses spend almost $1 billion per week on costs related to occupational injuries and illnesses.1 “In today's business environment,” according to OSHA, “these costs can be the difference between operating in the black and running in the red.”

Some employers choose to offer safety incentives to safeguard against potentially catastrophic incidents and motivate employees.

OSHA recommendations

 If not implemented correctly, safety incentive programs can backfire, warns OSHA. The organization says these programs should be created in a strategic way in order to be effective.

 In the past, safety programs might pass out rewards for time spent without an accident, but these types of rewards often encouraged under-reporting of workplace accidents. OSHA does not want employers to offer these types of incentives.

According to OSHA, “employers must not use incentive programs in a way that penalizes workers for reporting work-related injuries or illness.”2 Rather, OSHA recommends incentive programs that reward for employee participation in safety program activities and evaluations, completion of employee training, and safety walkthroughs and identification of hazards.3

OSHA says: “the rule does not prohibit disciplinary programs. However, employers must not use disciplinary action, or the threat of disciplinary action, to retaliate against an employee for reporting an injury or illness.”

Strategic tips

 ITA Group offers some tips to help companies develop a safety incentive program that follows OSHA guidelines4:

  • Regularly communicate the importance of reporting accidents as a part of your safety incentive program.
  • Gain management support and proactive participation. If management does not believe in the safety incentive program and stand behind it, neither will employees.
  • Don’t punish for injuries, reward for training. Offer quizzes on best practices, and reward those who get a passing grade. This keeps safety top-of-mind and demonstrates that employees know how to avoid these injuries.
  • Reward your team for reporting unsafe conditions and suggesting changes. Offering increasingly valuable awards for greater participation in the incentive program, such as ideas to rectify hazardous situations, demonstrates the value you place on their knowledge.
  • Create a safety committee. Safety committees are a great way to reinforce the value of safety and get your team involved. Select members from all tiers of your workforce to review accident reports, conduct workplace inspections, make safety recommendations to managers and more.

Safety incentives can help bolster and build the culture of safety in your organization. Unfortunately, some accidents will happen, no matter what steps you take, especially in hazardous industries.