Safety programs. how you can get a grip and keep it!


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Managing a safety program is difficult primarily due to human nature. The old school suggests you reward behavior based on the reduction of accidents and less injuries.

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Safety programs. how you can get a grip and keep it!

  1. 1. Safety Programs. How you can get a grip and keep it!Some years ago I was contacted by a manufacturer who had visited our booth atan incentive trade show in Chicago. He was running a safety program which wasnot providing him with the results he expected.Although not our client, at the time, I welcomed his questions. Accidents at hisfacility were continuing and he was losing money. Talking with him opened myeyes wide to better understand why safety programs fail and what can be doneabout it.Managing a safety program is difficult primarily due to human nature. The oldschool suggests you reward behavior based on the reduction of accidents andless injuries.In the case of my manufacturing friend, I surmised that his safety program wasproducing the opposite effect he wanted because of the way it was set up. Manyemployees were motivated to not report problems because there was no reward or recognition.When it comes to safety programs, create a "safety culture" and de-individualize it.Focusing your organization on safety has to be to be more than just an individual program. Your safety initiativemust be part and parcel of your culture. A culture that reflects behavior patterns of work and thought. Culture hasbeen defined as "socially transmitted".Building an organizational environment that includes group involvement, discussion focused on safety thought andtraining. Your team, your employees reinforce safe behavior with other employees and team members. Reward andrecognition programs will be effective with these components in place. The use of quizzes and simple games can alsohelp to engage your workforce into this culture.As mentioned before, we are not always rational otherwise the fear of losing an arm or a finger would be a bigenough reward to ensure safety. But unfortunately it is not. Throwing money, a coffee cup with the company logoor trinket doesnt influence unsafe behavior. But a culture of safety will. Share This Taico® :: 67 Patterson Village Ct., Bldg F :: Patterson, NY 12563 :: 845-228-GIFT (4438) :: fax: 845-228-5136 :: © 2012 Taico® Incentive Services Inc.
  2. 2. One way to enhance a safety culture is to have communication tools in place that make it possible to conveythroughout your organization the thoughts and principles you want to establish. This way you get the word out toeveryone at once.Reporting unsafe or accident prone situations before they occur will save you tons of heartache and money. In "yourculture of safety" your team can be rewarded and recognized for their conscientiousness. Reporting unsafesituations and fixing them will reduce risk and accidents.I also recommend your rewards program and safety culture be ongoing. When the influence of your initiative isbeing felt, all is good. However, you run the risk of some old unsafe behaviors returning once your program isdiscontinued.You run a business? You probably have safety issues. Issues that lurk in your warehouse, office, factory or otherworkplace area. Drivers, machinists, engineers even office personnel can be impacted. When it comes toproductivity it pays to have a safe environment.According to Gary Gregg executive vice president of Liberty Mutuals Commercial Markets. "There is a clear linkbetween workplace safety and a companys performance," Safety problems, "can have the greatest potentialnegative impact on employees and employers."Injuries and illness have accounted for almost 86 percent of the $38.7 billion in wage and medical payments as farback as 1998.Findings from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Academy of Social Insurance confirm Libertys SafetyIndex claim data as to the leading causes of job-site accidents. The total economic burden of workplace injuries andillness has been estimated to cost between $125 billion to $155 billion.Pile on top of that some direct costs of an unsafe working environment. A price tag that can include repairs todamaged equipment and property, hiring and training of replacement personnel, as well as costs associated withlower employee morale and absenteeism that is common in a work site that is considered unsafe.With the growth in safety awareness and safety programs the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a 27 percentdecrease in workplace deaths. But one death or injury is still one too many.Share This Taico® :: 67 Patterson Village Ct., Bldg F :: Patterson, NY 12563 :: 845-228-GIFT (4438) :: fax: 845-228-5136 :: © 2012 Taico® Incentive Services Inc.
  3. 3. Although credit is due to many OHSA personnel for their effort to improve workplace conditions, in this bloggersview, OSHAs hierarchy still fails to understand how safety programs enhance safety. In his memorandum datedMarch 12th 2012, directed to Regional Administrators and Whistleblower Program Managers, Deputy AssistantSecretary of OSHA, Richard E. Fairfax expressed "concern" that companies were providing bonuses and otherpositive incentives to their managers and employees for achieving specified safety goals.His memorandum went on to say safety incentives may have the effect of causing employees to be discouraged fromreporting safety violations and actual incidents. "Employees will be intimidated from reporting accidents or injuries",because in doing so, they may be missing out on an opportunity to “cash in” in the positive incentives the employeris offering.In my view? Only partically true if your companys safety program is set up the old fashioned way. The problem withOSHAs memorandum is it cynically concludes that safety programs create a pattern that must be interpreted as aviolation of OSHA’s whistleblower statutes. So instead of educating and helping the company improve safety, thebusiness owner is criminialized. This mentality sets the employee against the business and the business against thegovernment.Only out of touch bureaucrats in Washington could conclude that programs and incentives to increase workplacesafety, actually have the opposite effect. As ridiculous as this sounds, no one should doubt the resolve of OSHAenforcement agents in their attempts to punish employers who experience workplace accidents, and using this typeof twisted logic to assign blame and responsibility.For anyone following the OSHA whistleblower program over the years, it follows that any level of OSHA’sunderstanding of real issues and credibility must come into question.The OSHA program has been repeatedly and roundly criticized as ineffective, out of touch with business reality andmismanaged by the Labor Department Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office and advocacygroups. In response, OSHA has promised to improve and reorganize itself. Hearing this, Jeff Ruch, executive directorof the whistleblower group Public Employees for Environment Responsibility offered this comment. “It’s likeshuffling bureaucratic deck chairs on a sinking ship,”How can companies protect themselves from OSHA, and at the same time maintain their emphasis on providingpositive incentives for achieving improvements in workplace safety?Share This Taico® :: 67 Patterson Village Ct., Bldg F :: Patterson, NY 12563 :: 845-228-GIFT (4438) :: fax: 845-228-5136 :: © 2012 Taico® Incentive Services Inc.
  4. 4. One way, is to ensure that your positive incentive programs are "culture" driven and balanced. As stated before,your focus should not be only on events that have occurred (or not occurred) but on safe employee behaviors thatcan be observed, identified and rewarded. Employees can earn rewards for consistently following prescribed safetypractices. Managers can identify the actions or behaviors that employees need to consistently perform, in order tocontribute to a safer working environment. Both peers and supervisors can acknowledge and report on therepetitive performance of these safe behaviors.By focusing the reward on the positive occurrence of desired actions and behaviors, the company should be able toovercome the OSHA argument that they are discouraging the reporting of safety violations.A points based rewards system might be used as a vehicle to reward employees for safe behaviors. Points that areredeemable for a wide variety of gifts, travel, sporting events, experiences etc. can be awarded to participants basedon culture criteria and behaviors that you establish as your priority. Partnering your efforts with a professionalincentive company will dramatically help.Such programs offer ease of implementation and administration and can tailored to meet your organizationsspecific long term or short term goals. By focusing on a safety culture, safe behaviors can result. Instead ofdiscouraging the reporting of negative events, you are encouraging the reporting of positive events.I suggest that companies wanting to incentivize safety, by only rewarding the non occurrence of accidents, need torevisit those policies.Implementing a culture based, safety program can have a big payoff for your business beacuse it can reduceemployee down time and lower your insurance and medical costs. Plus a safe place to work is attractive to yourworkforce and new employees.Another idea is promoting the connection between the individuals behaviors and something THEY care about.Having a company wide communication tool will help convey your safety philosophy to everyone.Often individuals will lose weight or quit a bad habit when it impacts their ability to enjoy life or provide for theirfamilies.Re-directing the focus of your safety initiative from the individual’s benefits or the company’s benefit to the benefitof the participant’s family, friends or other people they care about will make a difference.Safety benefits all. Its just that simple!Share This Taico® :: 67 Patterson Village Ct., Bldg F :: Patterson, NY 12563 :: 845-228-GIFT (4438) :: fax: 845-228-5136 :: © 2012 Taico® Incentive Services Inc.