Safety Rewards: How They Can Help & Hinder
- David Oswald (RMIT University) | Fred Sherratt (Anglia Ruskin University) | Simon D. Smith (Institution of Civil Engineers)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- July 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 27 - 31
- 2019. American Society of Safety Professionals
- 1 in the last 30 days
- 14 since 2007
- Show more detail
- Safety rewards are worth incorporating in wider safety management systems, as they can influence safe behaviors of more than half the frontline workforce.
- Reward systems are only beneficial when decisions and protocols around the systems are deemed to be fair by those in the organization. This fairness helps, rather than hinders, the promotion of a just culture.
No clear consensus exists within construction safety literature as to whether companies that use safety rewards are safer than those that do not. Through an ethnographic approach, the study presented in this article investigated a rewards system used on a large construction project. The researcher utilized participant observation as a main research tool within the safety and health department, attending the project between one and three times a week for 3 years. Data were collected through site walkarounds, attending meetings, informal discussions and the project safety survey results.
The results suggest that safety rewards are worth incorporating in wider safety management systems, as the majority of workers believed these rewards encouraged them to act in a safer manner, especially when the individual award was of financial worth. For the rewards program itself to be reputable, clear protocol and criteria should be established for safety acts that are worthy of winning an award. Group awards that reward low or no incidents within a certain period create risks of underreporting, so it is recommended that other incentive options be explored. A clear protocol should also be established on restrictions and limitations for work groups with high turnover.
One strategy adopted on U.K. construction sites in an attempt to mitigate unsafe behaviors is the implementation of a safety rewards scheme. It has long been understood that a link exists between unsafe acts and incidents, and within the construction industry it has been argued that a reduction in unsafe acts must be achieved (Shin, Lee, Park, et al., 2014) to see improvements in practice. The aim of the case study research presented in this article was to explore the safety reward system as practically implemented on a single large construction project (of value more than £500 million) in the U.K. More specifically, the research aimed to answer the following questions:
- How influential was the safety reward system perceived to be?
- What constituted a motivating award?
- What can hinder the success of individually targeted and group-targeted reward systems?
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