How Recognition Programs Support Continuous Safety Improvement

Safety strategies have become an essential part of every business management plan. No matter what the industry, OSHA requires employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment for all their employees.

But it isn’t enough to merely say that the workplace is safe or assume that there aren’t hazards. Employers need a Continuous Improvement Safety Strategy that encourages employees to prioritize safety and remain an active part of improving on safety rules and practices.

When seeking tools that foster safety improvement, many employers turn to the use of safety recognition programs. While safety programs are only a facet of a comprehensive safety strategy, they can be an important part of motivating employees.  It is imperative that a company use The Right Rule Structure to drive and enforce their values and mission.

OSHA mandates that employers to report accidents and unsafe conditions in the workplace. Safety recognition programs utilize positive reinforcement for behaviors that reinforce safety, and incentivize such actions as the reporting of “near miss” incidents and potential hazards, observing unsafe behaviors or conditions and rectifying them. Employers can set the criteria of the program and award employees for their proactive participation. 

Safety recognition programs are also valuable in communicating the importance of safety to employees. Communication about company values, new safety rules, safety incentives, and safety training is pertinent to creating a safe work environment. Web-based programs make hosting safety forums, posting newsletters, and other important safety announcements simple. Employees can log into the program to read the latest news and even participate in conversations that could improve workplace safety. The more communication methods, the more complete the transfer of important safety information.

Determining the success of a recognition program is sometimes challenging. As an employer, your goal is to increase employee engagement and participation. Often, companies try to determine how much employee engagement there is with the program. Programs that utilize tracking, measuring and reporting tools help gauge employee involvement. Safety quizzes can help to determine an employee’s knowledge of safety and how well they retain new information. Tracking and reporting measures within the safety program can also show how often near misses have been reported, what safety topics employees are discussing, and how often employees are participating in the program. These reports help companies determine what changes they need to make and what new safety practices need to put in place.

Reports and tracking can also be used to give credit where credit is due. Employees that work hard and demonstrate safe practices deserve to be acknowledged and rewarded. As part of a Continuous Improvement Process, recognition serves as a way to thank employees for being a proactive part in creating a safe work environment. Recognition is also a great way to inspire employees to continue to be safe, both at work and at home.

Out-of-date incentive programs tend to structure rules in a way that discourage reporting near misses or threaten to take away incentives if employees are not reaching specific safety numbers. These types of programs have been addressed by OSHA over the last few years as being punitive, negative, and an incorrect approach.

A more modern, OSHA-sanctioned approach to safety recognition encourages active participation, appropriate behavior changes, and engagement from all employees. Recognition reduces the fear of retribution employees may feel regarding speaking up about safety hazards.

In fact, through the use of recognition, many companies are seeing a lot of improvement when it comes to safety. In turn, this results in a better Return on Investment when it comes to implementing a safety recognition program. Employees who are part of a safety recognition program report being happier, more proactive in safety, and are excited to receive rewards for being part of the program. Companies see lower accident rates, higher engagement numbers, less turnover, and cost savings when it comes to things like worker’s compensation benefits and costly hazard repairs. But the most important advantage to a safety recognition program is, of course, safer employees.

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