Why Safety Incentives are Dangerous

Walter Cardin was safety engineer for Shaw Group a subsidiary of Stone & Webster Construction. Walter Cardin is presently in jail serving a 78 month for falsifying injury reports. Why? Because of safety incentives worth $2.5 million offered by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). You can read all about the case on the World Nuclear News website.

This is the problem with safety incentives. They tend to cause under reporting of injuries. It only makes sense. If you get paid for going a certain amount of time without any injuries and a couple of days before that period of time is up someone at the plant gets injured, you are tempted to not report it in order to get the reward. When money is involved, honesty is often hard to come by.

So what the solution?

  • Train your safety officers to recognize and praise good safety practices
  • Offer incentives, not for days without injuries, but for new or improve processes that result in safer work.
  • Involve the employees by making them a part of the safety committee. All to often managers only are on the safety committee, instead of involving the ones closest to the actual work; these employees might better be see where improvements can be made.

Ultimately you need to motivate rather than try to get results through dangerous incentives. Believe in your employees and expect the best from them. Some will let you down but you will find that most will step up.