While safety recognition programs can be highly effective at changing or reinforcing employee safety behavior to ensure real success in your overall program, there are a number of critical safety program components that must be in place first, otherwise your overall company safety results may fall well short of your program goals.

Effective employee safety programs are critical for all manufacturing companies. They must start from the top down in the organization. Senior company leaders must continuously and visibly endorse and support the overall importance of the safety program to the organization. In addition, the necessary resources must be committed to ensure the continuous achievement of required company safety objectives.

Key safety program components:

1. Safe Work Environment — it seems obvious, but employee working areas must be safe from all potential hazards (both naturally occurring and manmade).

2. Safe Work Equipment — again seems obvious, but it can be overlooked.

3. Invest in your Safety Department — equip your safety department with adequate resources from experienced knowledgeable safety professionals to training materials.

4. Hire ‘Safe’ People — consistent attention should be paid in the hiring process to seek and hire individuals who indicate high levels of overall general ‘responsible behavior’.

5. Effective Training — comprehensive, continuous and thorough employee safety training is critical for best results. Training is not a one-time ‘flavor of the month’ type thing. It should be ever present and ongoing.

Key safety reward program components

Once all other safety program elements are in place, here are 10 key components for an effective employee safety reward program:

1. Program communication: ‘Shout it out’!

Program communication must be continuous, fun, visible and colorful.

Pick a program theme. Consider posters, banners, employee newsletter, employee website, corporate voicemail/email message (from CEO), or imprinted message on paycheck stub, etc.

Hold a fun kick-off meeting. Music, balloons, pizza lunch, coffee /donuts — hand out company logo pens, drink bottles/t-shirts, etc. — announce/explain the program in detail.

2. Build a reward component into the safety program (consider gift cards, merchandise premiums, etc).

Nominal rewards can be handed out, such as $5 gift cards to Shell, Subway, Starbucks, iTunes, Burger King, movie cards, etc. Overall safety program themes can be imprinted on many merchant gift cards to reinforce your safety program message/theme.

3. Attendance at training classes — Have Fun — recognize/thank employees for attending/participating.

Announce throughout the safety training classes — quizzes will take place — everyone or the first to answer the safety training questions correctly gets a gift card.

Perhaps at the end of the training class a special “mystery prize” gift card (no one knows the card brand or the denomination) can be awarded — a complete surprise!

Consider dividing classes into teams for fun competition.

The more fun your safety training class is, the more your employees are going to learn about safety.

4. Conduct quarterly safety tests/quizzes — achieve a specific score — receive an award/reward.

Again have a little fun with this!

 5. Caught doing the job right

All supervisors, plant managers, and managers in general should seek out opportunities to catch employees working safely, using the right safety equipment and clothing, and using safe work practices.

Visibly tell them — recognize the employee on the spot, in front of their peers — give them a recognition reward (eg, gift card / ‘attaboy’).

6. Ongoing structure, a more formal employee safety recognition program.

This can be individual, team, shift or plant Safety Recognition Program.

7. Set performance goals

Ensure that the goals are “smart”:

S. Specific

M. Measurable

A. Action-Orientated

R. Realistic

T. Time Bound

Note: if a key measurement is ‘reported accidents,’ care must be taken to ensure that neither the reward program nor any type of inappropriate peer pressure is applied to encourage an employee not to follow company policies and report an accident that they have had.

8. Celebrate the success…

 “Excellent companies make extraordinary use of celebrating the winning once it occurs” — a quote from the famous book ‘In Search of Excellence’.

Sadly for most of us, we’re not going to play in the Superbowl or hit that three-point shot to win the NBA Championship. Yet our work is a huge part of our lives; in many ways it’s our Superbowl. Let’s treat it as such and reinforce and recognize our employees when they achieve and maintain required levels of employee safety: “We’re #1 — We’re World Champions in Safety”.

9. What type of rewards should I use?

There are many different types of rewards out there from t-shirts to trophies to merchandise premiums to gift cards.

Company logo items such as pens, t-shirts and coffee mugs are longstanding reward staples. But be sure they are not seen by employees as a type of company/program advertising.

Merchandise can be expensive (middle man markup) and difficult to determine what a diverse group of employees really would like to earn/receive.

10. Gift cards

Gift cards continue to grow in popularity in safety programs because:

  •  They allow employees to choose their own reward eg; Shell, Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Visa gift card.
  •  Cost-effective for employer — generally can be purchased at or close to face value (no middleman mark-ups).
  •  Easy to hand out/present — very light and portable.
  •  Easy to use — at the retailer, online or through a toll free number.
  •  Many denominations — from as low as $5 and up — they can fit any safety recognition budget.