ISHN Guest BlogOriginally posted on Caterpillar Safety Service’s Safety Culture WORLD blog reposted here with Caterpillar’s permission.

I have often used a safety perception survey originally developed by Dr. Dan Petersen as a safety culture diagnostic to help focus an organization’s efforts on areas that the employees believe need improvement. One of the questions in this safety perception survey reads something like “Would a safety incentive/recognition program cause you to work more safely? It is surprising how many people answer this question with a “yes.” If you pay me more will I really work safer and be more careful with my own personal safety and health? I guess that means if you pay me less I’ll make a point of going out and hurting myself. Give me a break! This is crazy!

One of the safety industry’s more inane endless debates deals with safety incentive systems. One side is that paying people more based on injury rates has been shown to reduce injury rates. You all know the other side; we end up paying people to hide injuries. And this continues until a big event occurs that cannot be hidden. That is usually followed by a rash of injury reporting until all the old aches, pains and hurts are flushed out of the system. And then the cycle of pay to hide injuries starts all over again. We are back to BAU (business as usual) and a continuation of this cycle of safety insanity.

This kind of safety incentive system addresses the symptom, reporting of injuries, instead of the cause. What are the physical conditions that continue to trap our employees and injury them? Rather; what are the safety culture realities that continue to put us at risk and then trap our employees.

On occasion I have dug deeper into what kind of recognition the employees really would prefer. Based on scores of one-on-one interviews with hourly and salaried employees the answer to this question is overwhelmingly “Some kind of short, genuine personal, face-to-face thanks that applies to the job I was doing.” Realistic personal attention given in an adult manner is what “we humans” really want. This kind of sounds like a type of one of the following:

  • Visible upper management commitment to safety
  • Active middle manager involvement in safety
  • Focused supervisor performance in safety
  • Active hourly participation in safety

Well son of a gun those are four of Dr. Dan Petersen’s Six Criteria of Safety Excellence! The “ol’ perfessor” got it right again. No more meaningless safety $ games. Let’s do what we all really want; genuine engagement at the workface by all levels of the organization.

It’s about face time not money. Come on now, get out of the comfortable office and talk to the people that are working to pay your (and my) wages. A “better, faster, cheaper” solution to improving safety performance.