Rewarding employees for a lack of injuries

Days since injury-2

By Brie DeLisi

How many times have you seen a sign that says: “XX days since our last injury”? Or a pizza party, awards, or bonuses for no injuries? These celebrations are commonplace at businesses across the world. The original purpose of celebrating a lack of injuries is that it seemingly demonstrates that we kept our employees safe and to keep it up! It is an admirable and noteworthy accomplishment to keep employees safe for a whole year, or even years. However, there is an unintended consequence that has a tendency to rear its ugly head when this is our only form of recognition for safety.
When money, or significant rewards, are awarded for a lack of incidents, it can ultimately lead to employees hiding minor workplace incidents. An employee might hide an incident because he or she doesn’t want to be the one to spoil the reward for the whole department, and the higher the reward, the more likely he or she would be inclined to hide a minor incident. Another reason to hide an incident is that he or she might be shunned or admonished by the greater population for ‘ruining it’ for them.

The side effect of not reporting minor incidents is that eventually the uncontrolled hazard from those minor incidents will lead to several other minor incidents or even more serious incidents. It is important to foster a culture of learning, in which those minor incidents can be viewed as an opportunity to share, improve and avoid future incidents for the entire organization.

While rewarding employees for a lack of incidents is not recommended, there are a number of ways we can still reward employees for safety. Employees can be rewarded for taking a more proactive approach to safety – examples include taking an active role in improving the safety of their workplace by participating in committees and safety projects, reporting uncontrolled risks, recommending safety improvements, and performing safe acts.