Safety rewards ‘cut accidents’

REWARDING safe behaviour is proven to reduce the number of workplace accidents and keep them down.

Queens University emeritus professor of psychology Gerry Wilde, who has been researching the effects of safety bonuses, said incentives worked better than punishment.

Safety bonuses are given to workers who have been able to maintain an accident free record for a period of time – be it for one month or one year – and can range from public praise to cash incentives.

Research has found using safety bonuses can reduce the number of days lost due to injury per 100,000 hours worked by 50 per cent to 80 per cent.

The effectiveness of such programs does not dwindle. Some programs have been in effect for 30 years without losing effect.

Occasional focuses on workplace safety can immediately reduce the number of accidents but the effect of such programs wane over time as complacency creeps in.

This is a risk in WA, where workplace safety has been under scrutiny since the blow out in workers’ compensation premiums.

Over the past two years the number of claims entering the system have dropped but there is no guarantee this trend will continue.

A company can even make money from safety because these incentive programs help boost staff morale and productivity.

Professor Wilde said the safety bonuses could be given on an individual or team basis. Team basing changed workplace culture quicker.

The California Highways Department sent letters to 10,000 motorists offering a free one-year extension to their driver’s licences if they did not have an accident for one year.

It found the number of accidents among the group fell 22 per cent in the first year.

Ironically, the number of accidents among the same group fell 33 per cent in the following year, supposedly because the participants felt the department was taking its pledge seriously.

“Employers need to choose attractive awards that are progressive so workers are rewarded for longer periods of being accident free,” Prof. Wilde said.

However, the accident-free incentives should not be too high, else workers will stop reporting minor accidents that can lead to problems later on, he said.

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