A Safety Program Primer
How much do injuries or illness cost your company? It’s a question worth asking. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration’s estimate, employers collectively pay almost $1 billion per week for direct workers’ compensation costs. If you think that figure only represents large companies such as manufacturers, petroleum or other dangerous worksites, reconsider. Common workplace injuries are slips, falls, repetitive motion, strains from lifting and falling objects; these can – and do – occur in professional offices, at schools and in grocery stores.
Companies that recognize and promote safe work environments cite reduced costs in a number of categories including health-care costs, lost time or shutdowns as the motivation behind promoting safety and wellness initiatives. Programs range from weekly, task-oriented programs to long-running programs that continue for years, with constant tweaks to keep them fun and relevant.
The activities within safety programs generally fall into two categories: incentives and rewards. Safety incentives on the front end of a safety initiative are designed to increase employee awareness, or to educate, or to motivate employees to buy into the initiative. These items can be simple and inexpensive when used to educate or introduce the program; or they can be more substantial if they are intended to encourage the more reluctant to participate. Before rewards can be selected, specific goals need to be defined. Workplace behaviors that improve safety should be determined, along with specific metrics. This is often done through a points system. “The challenge is to focus on which behaviors and habits can be changed and which best practices can be encouraged,” says Michele Adams, a consultant specializing in safety programs. “At the same time, the program should encourage only the activities that positively change the overall corporate culture and how the company as a whole views safety. As with any plan, starting with an understanding of where you are today and where you want to end up will reveal the steps to take to get there.”
Rewarding employees early in the process will get the safety program off to a good start. Initial signup point bonuses, promotional products, a lunch or picnic promoting the project, signage and printed materials to excite the participants. “Some companies use the ‘fast’ marketing approach by having some easy-to-win contests or quizzes to put enough points into participants’ accounts that they almost immediately can see some award as being within their grasp or how they can bank points for higher valued lifestyle merchandise,” says Adams. Name brand merchandise earned through a point system has been shown to be effective for many companies.
Communication is key in successful programs. Participants want to see evidence that their peers are actively involved. Peer pressure is central to any program with the aim of changing company culture, but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Internal marketing doesn’t end with the launch of the program — in fact, that is the beginning. Whether it’s viewing a training video or completing a certification course, it means nothing if it is not recognized and celebrated. As program milestones are reached, it’s not just the employees who are celebrating, it’s also the management team. They know that when a safety program works, it saves much more than it costs. If you’d like to improve your bottom line, give us a call at APTCO.