An incentive program that rewards employee participation in safety programs and recognizes safe behavior can be a valuable component of an effective safety program. Properly designed and administered, safety incentives can promote the culture of safety within your organization.
By Will Flower

Effective safety programs result in an overall cost savings for solid waste organizations. That said, sufficient resources are needed to establish and support all of the components of a comprehensive safety program. Some of the basic elements of a safety program can include:
• New employee orientation programs
• The mandatory use of Personal Protection Equipment
• Proper job training for the specific tasks and equipment that an employee will use.
• Ongoing safety meetings to review pertinent subjects.
• A process for regularly evaluating work areas and equipment to make sure they are free of hazards.
• The tracking and investigating of accidents and injuries to identify root causes of claims.
• Promoting a culture of safety in which all employees are engaged and keep safety top-of-mind.
Many solid waste and recycling companies also use safety incentives and reward programs to recognize safe behavior that results in reduced injuries and accidents while improving financial results.

A Strategic Plan
When developing a safety incentive program, start with a strategic plan that includes specific, realistic and measurable goals. Employee recognition and rewards for safe behavior is key. Some programs use immediate rewards such as a small gift card. Others allow employees to accumulate reward points that can be turned in for prizes. Prizes and points can be presented to employees who complete training programs, present an idea for safety improvement or are witnessed doing their job in a safe manner.

Make a Big Splash
When the program is ready to be rolled out, make a big splash and get everyone involved. Use memos, newsletters, safety meetings, posters and other communication tools to explain how the program works. Importantly, the incentive program should be continually promoted to maintain interest. While safety is serious, there is nothing wrong with having some fun celebrating safe behavior. Publicly recognizing an employee at a safety meeting and saying, “Good job!” in front of his or her peers can go a long way.

Long-Term Success
With safety incentive programs there are a few critical things to keep in mind:
• Safety recognition programs do not need to break the bank. Indeed, most successful safety reward programs are considered investments, not expenses.
• It is difficult to choose a reward item that everyone will like to earn. Therefore, the gift cards offer a flexible option that allows employees to choose their own reward.
• Managers should be careful not to design or use safety reward programs that result in non-reporting of accidents or injuries. Again, the best programs recognize employees for safe behavior.
• Get everyone talking about safety. Everyone benefits when employees share their own thoughts and ideas to improve safety in the workplace. Importantly, managers should listen to and act on employee suggestions.
• Be consistent with your safety incentive program. Even when things are going well, remain committed to providing a safe work place with safe equipment.
It is important to remember that a safety incentive program is only one facet of a comprehensive safety program. The other parts of the safety program like training and safety meetings must continue to ensure long-term success. | WA

Next month’s Safety Brief will discuss the challenges of driving waste collection vehicles in heavy traffic conditions.
Will Flower is the Vice President of Corporate and Public Affairs at Winters Bros. Waste Systems. Will has 36 years of experience in the area of solid waste management and environmental protection. He has held operational and executive leadership positions at the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services. Inc. and Green Stream Recycling.

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