Safety reward plans

Keeping accident rates low is vital to the survival of a business: many owners will not consider allowing a contractor to even bid on a project with a worker's compensation experience modification rate (EMR) – which reflects an employer's loss experience – of 1.0 or above.

The more actively a workforce is engaged in safe workplace practices, the greater the rewards to the employer in the form of low if not zero accident rates.

Local and national safety awards, as well as employer-sponsored incentive programs, are some of the strategies available to employers looking to recognize worker participation in good safety practices.

Safety incentive programs

Incentive programs work on a simple premise: good standard practices over the long term are rewarded with monetary and other forms of compensation and recognition. It’s the simplest form of quid pro quo.

One large national contractor values its program and publishes the results in its quarterly magazine, where employees are rewarded with checks, a system of merit points, or even gold wristwatches in recognition for supervision of team members with no recordable injuries.

There are arguments for and against the effectiveness of safety incentive programs. Some of the most skeptical voices being raised are at OSHA, which is wary of the practice because of the charge of under reporting accidents, a factor that may or may not be a motivational factor. Engineering News Record (ENR) offered a fine analysis of the situation in their editorial, "A Prize Predicament." An earlier study published by IRMI (2001) was generally critical of the effectiveness of incentive programs.

Aside from charges of the egregious practice of manipulating data, incentive programs can work effectively in promoting a culture of worksite safety that instills safe practices as part of a daily routine.

Recognition Awards

Companies can apply for recognition awards from state, local, regional and national organizations which look closely at the programs and practices of businesses and provide recognition based on annual performance.

Commendation letters from client owners also enhances recognition and burnishes a company's safety reputation.

In the end, these should serve more than wall decorations and actually matter to the company as a whole. Luncheons and other company-sponsored events, as well as publications, serve to disseminate important safety performance information to employees.

The following are among the best examples of a company's election to safe principles and the transparency of its practices.

The Construction Users Round table (CURT) Construction Industry Safety Excellence (CISE) Awards program was established to recognize commendable safety management and safety improvements of owners, constructors, and local user councils. The organization recognizes those firms or organizations that have most effectively implemented the recommendations of the Construction Owners’ Safety Blueprint [PDF].

One of the most rigorous and selective campaigns in which an employer can elect to participate is the OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP), where an application is made to OSHA followed by an onsite evaluation by a team of safety and health professionals.

Obtaining VPP status shows recognition a company's safety and health management programs and systems. The designation and posting of the trademark-registered logo tells the industry there is a safety program and safe worksites that maintain a high standard, one of the highest levels of recognition and achievement in the safety arena. Companies are recognized for either Merit (adequate but needs improvement) or Star (exemplary) status.

Safety Boards Signs The construction industry can be dynamic and rewarding, and has developed plenty of ways of recognizing outstanding safety performance.