Motivating Employees for Safety Success

Oct. 20, 2000
A speaker at NSC's Congress explains what really motivates employees to become engaged in the safety effort.

A common concern to safety professionals across industries and countries is how to maintain a high level of motivation among employees at all levels for safety. What really motivates employees to become engaged in the safety effort?

Thomas Krause, Ph.D., CEO of Behavioral Science Technology Inc., Ojai, Calif., helped to answer this question for attendees at the National Safety Council''s (NSC) Congress Wednesday in Orlando, Fla.

Krause outlined the common approaches to maintaining motivation and provided a critique of each one.

1. Slogans and Posters. Krause said these are useful when they are consistent with what is going on in the organization.

"If you put a sign up in your plant that says ''Safety is No.1'' and isn''t true, it doesn''t belong there," said Krause.

2. The kick-in-the-rear method. Krause said this method is outmoded, ineffective and requires constant supervision.

3. Discipline. If done fairly and consistently, Krause said it is an important part of safety. However, he warns that discipline will not effect motivation in an effective way and it can have significant side effects.

4. Gain Sharing Programs. Gain sharing programs are broader than safety incentive programs and apply to different performance areas of a company, such as production and finance.

Krause said these are a double-edged sword. "I would suggest not using this method as a way of motivating your employees, but if you are going to do it, include safety and look for a measure other than incident frequency rate," he said.

5. Safety Incentives. Krause believes that safety incentives are more negative than positive when it comes to motivating employees. "Safety incentives don''t send the right message, they are not an accurate form of feedback and they don''t actually motivate the right behavior," noted Krause.

6. Engaging the employee in improving the safety process. This method, said Krause, is the best way to motivate employees and get them connected to the safety function.

"Safety motivation for employees comes when they are connected with the work they are doing on an intellectual, emotional, creative and physical level," said Krause. "It has to have meaning for them in order to motivate them."

How do you engage employees in the real world? Krause noted that the following mechanisms are ways to will help to involve employees on all of those levels.

Allow employees to:

  • participate in the purchase of personal protective equipment;
  • be on problem solving committees;
  • make safety suggestions; and
  • conduct safety evaluations.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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