Unlock the Effectiveness of Your Safety Incentive Program

October 2, 2023

Ditch the cookie-cutter approach and find out how to effectively utilize a safety incentive program that fits your organization's needs.

Unlock the Effectiveness of Your Safety Incentive Program

For the past decade, safety incentive programs have been used by companies to improve their team’s safety habits and reduce workers’ compensation claims along with other work-related injuries.

While skeptics of incentive programs point to a variety of pitfalls that could unintentionally decrease job safety, those who adopt safety incentive programs typically find they are essential to the success of their health and safety program.

The main pitfall to watch out for is creating a program that unintentionally or intentionally rewards employees who do not report injuries or incidents.

For example, employers may only reward their employees if their team has no injuries that year or quarter. While this incentive has good intentions, it can lead to under-reported injuries. Employees will see this as an opportunity to sidestep their safety process and keep injuries under wraps to receive their rewards. 

Alternatively, behavior-based safety incentive programs allow employees to contribute safety suggestions, participate in meetings and audits, and implement job enhancements. By involving employees in creating a secure work environment, their focus shifts to the overall outcome rather than just the reward. This approach fosters a culture of shared responsibility for safety, improving performance and reducing incidents.

The red flags of a poorly executed program

Poorly designed or launched safety incentive programs typically become:

Ineffective: Employees lose interest, while employers find them too time-consuming and costly to maintain.

Expected: Employees expect incentives regardless of outcomes.

Tedious: When expectations and rewards remain unchanged year after year, employees lose interest and programs lose momentum.

Punitive: Group rewards may lead to negative behavior or resentment towards individuals responsible for loss.

Irrelevant: Employees may not see program relevance, as safety is already part of their job requirements.

By recognizing these red flags, your team can develop a well-rounded incentive program that aligns with your organization’s goals and satisfies your team’s needs. Once you understand the signs of a poorly executed program, knowing what to do and what not to do can become second nature.

Program do’s and don’ts

Here are some essential guidelines that can be followed to successfully implement an effective safety program that ensures the well-being and security of employees:


  • Recognize the significance of recognition rather than just rewards.
  • Emphasize consistent repetition and promotion of the program.
  • Secure management support and buy-in. Every manager, from supervisors to the CEO, must be fully committed to and actively participate in the program.
  • Allocate appropriate time and resources to the program. Safety incentive programs typically cost an average of $50 per employee per year and require substantial planning and execution.
  • Make safety a core value within your organization.
  • Involve employees in the process.
  • Set high expectations and communicate them frequently. Make sure you provide employees with the necessary resources and equipment to meet those expectations.
  • Recognize and reward employees consistently, clearly linking awards/incentives to specific performance measures. Provide regular feedback and consistently link successful behavior changes to the rewards.
  • Offer rewards that are genuine, meaningful, important and worth striving for.


  • Focus solely on the reward aspect. Instead, focus on consistently educating and encouraging safety-conscious behavior that will ultimately lead to the desired outcome.
  • Rely solely on injury reports as indicators. Programs that only aim to reduce the number of reported injuries can discourage timely and accurate reporting.
  • Treat the safety incentive program as a standalone or substitute for a comprehensive safety program.
  • Make it overly complicated. Safety incentive plans should be simple, with a clear kick-off that effectively communicates expectations, followed by regular and ongoing communication of these expectations.
  • Attempt to adopt a “one-size-fits-all” program for your organization. Some types of incentive programs may not be suitable and could even discourage injury reporting.
  • Expect the program to run itself, as it may lose momentum. Involve employees by establishing safety committees comprised of employees.
  • Use contests or group rewards that may create negative peer pressure. Group rewards are effective only in organizations where teamwork and cooperation are already ingrained in the culture.

Rewards that work

What about gifts and prizes? Is cash an acceptable form of reward?

According to experts, cash bonuses are suitable for recognizing outstanding safety performance. However, they caution that although cash holds value, it may not be special enough. Instead, prioritize recognition and motivation, fostering a culture where safety is valued every day.

Rewards should be symbolic, meaningful and serve as a reminder of a job well done. Many companies opt for safety-themed clothing, housewares or outdoor equipment adorned with safety slogans or logos. Additional vacation days, food or parties are also popular and easily implemented.

At The Miller Group, we recognize the importance of incentives and offer a comprehensive range of tools and resources to help you enhance your safety incentive program. Whether it involves implementing effective safety protocols or providing comprehensive training, our team is dedicated to supporting you. Take the next step in cultivating a strong safety culture and managing risks by talking with an advisor today.

About The Author

Aaron Paris, CSP, ASP

Aaron Paris, CSP, ASP
Email As the Director of Safety, Property & Casualty, Aaron has more than six years of experience in workplace safety and 12 years in law enforcement. Aaron consults with clients on a wide variety of safety issues such as worker safety, auto, property risk and other safety procedures. He is also authorized to teach OSHA 10- and 30- hour courses.