Safety incentive programmes in the workplace

As safety procedures are becoming paramount in the workplace, implementing a safety incentive programme can be an effective way to achieve higher safety standards. An incentive programme recognises workers for reporting injuries, illnesses, near misses, or hazards. This encourages employees to take part in reducing incidents. Believers of safety incentives claim that they are an important element in any health and safety programme. Sceptics point to a number of shortcomings that may actually decrease job safety.

In order to make them as beneficial as possible, safety incentive schemes need to avoid becoming routine. Employees will lose interest and employers will find them too time-consuming and costly. Below are some dos and don’ts to make a safety incentive programme successful.


  • Understand the importance of recognition rather than reward. Encouraging safe behaviour does not have to stem from cash rewards. Set high standards and make them integral to your company and use rewards as an icing on the cake. Repeated recognition from superiors is more personal and meaningful than tangible reward schemes.
  • Get management support and buy-in. Everyone from managers to the CEO must be fully involved in creating a safety-first culture in the business. Employees will not buy into a programme if they see management not treating it seriously.   
  • Commit appropriate time and money to the programme. Make sure you have enough resources to support the programme or your employees will perceive it as poorly thought out.
  • Involve employees in the process. Often front line employees will notice more hazards than management may do. Receive their suggestions when implementing a scheme to encourage their full participation.
  • Set high standards from the beginning so that best-practices are part of your company culture.
  • Reward and recognise everyone and often. Be sure that everyone has an equal chance at rewards or not everyone will buy into your scheme.
  • Provide rewards that are genuine, meaningful, important and worth achieving.


Focus on the reward only. Encourage a culture of safety first and educate your employees about best-practise standards.

  • Focus on injury numbers only. Programmes based solely on reducing injury rates could discourage employees from reporting near misses and inaccurate reporting. Instead, focus on encouraging programmes that inspire safety conscious behaviours.
  • Use programmes in isolation. They are most effective alongside a full safety programme including training and meetings.
  • Make it complicated. Programmes are there to make your workplace as safe as possible for your employees. Do not limit this by making them hard to use or unclear, or you will risk discouraging people from using it fully.
  • Expect the programme to run itself. Get a mixture of employees and management to run the scheme or risk it running out of steam.

Remember that safety incentive programmes should not be about paying people off but recognition and motivation for making welfare a top priority in the workplace.