Guest Post: The Problem with Safety Awards

guestblogger.jpgToday we have a guest blogger at The Employer Handbook. It’s Kristie Lewis. An expert in the construction industry, freelance writer Kristie Lewis offers tips and advice on choosing the best construction management colleges. She welcomes any questions and comments you might have at

And if you want to guest blog at The Employer Handbook, then email me.

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(Editor’s note: I can’t possibly have a post on safety without incorporating this song).

There’s a tactic that has been in use for some years now by both major corporations and smaller companies. The method is simple; cut down on workers compensation costs by awarding employees for good safety practices. At first glance, this seems like a great plan, but there’s an unforeseen problem lurking in the background.

From the hospitality industry to the construction industry, several companies across the nation now give employees incentives to play it safe at work. Some companies promise their employees extra time off if they can go two weeks without any safety incidents, some give away gift cards or prizes. For some workers, the possibility of receiving a little something extra every two weeks has them questioning the benefit of reporting injuries, and this is where the problem lies.

All businesses in the United States require their employees to report all instances of injury, no matter how great or small. This is because small, harmless injuries can quickly turn into bigger injuries, and companies need to have the report on file to save themselves in the event of a legal battle.

Before the advent of safety award programs, employees had no reason to not report small injuries. But now, a small cut on the finger could mean the company will lose its chance for a day off or a free steak dinner and this has some workers opting not to report small accidents.

Even worse, there is a possibility that some employees will actually threaten other employees who go to report small injuries. All of this may seem like childish playground politics, but it is a legitimate concern that employers should take note of.

The question employers need to ask is, “Does our award system have the potential to cause employees not to report injuries?” Typically, if your system rewards employees on a frequent basis with monetary gifts or time off, then you do have a recipe for disaster, and you should change your award program.

Instead of offering gift cards or extra time away from the office, plan a company office party or happy hour event for departments that stay incident free for longer than one month. When you decrease the frequency and value of the reward, you may be surprised to see that the number of small injury reports will rise.

Events may not be reported, but this doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. And this is exactly why there are problems in rewarding workers for being “accident free.” After all, the definition of accident is “an unforeseen and unplanned event or circumstance.” No one knows when they will happen. Even with good safety practices, reward programs can’t stop accidents, but they can stop workers from reporting injuries.