EHS OutLoud Blog

Safety Bingo Is Insulting

I'm sorry; I must have misheard you. You really didn't tell me that your way of demonstrating how important safety is to your company is playing safety bingo, did you? 

Let me get this straight; you are trying to let every employee know that safety is your highest priority, and you use a bingo game to prove it?

I recently was speaking with a group of owners, primarily of manufacturing companies, and asked if any of them still were using safety bingo. Let's just say I was surprised by the response. About 20 percent of them still had safety bingo in their company. I asked them to think about the message this sends: that your company's idea of how to demonstrate to the people who work for it that their safety is your highest priority is... a bingo game. Do they think that somehow bingo will be the missing piece that will convince workers to do their jobs the right way? I think playing bingo has the potential to be insulting. I also think it doesn't work.

The only legitimate way to have fewer injuries is to create a safety culture where workers take responsibility for their own behavior. A culture where they perform their jobs the way they have been trained and the way that is the safest, and they take responsibility. A culture where they take pride in their safety record, where there is a sense of teamwork and a desire to achieve success in an area that is one of the company's highest priorities: SAFETY. Safety bingo undermines this. For many employees, the company is trying to trick them into not having or not reporting injuries. Any motivation it provides is short term, an often the game of bingo is no longer even related to safety.  It's just a game.

To have a strong safety culture is to have a workforce that's engaged. We encourage companies to have safety meetings that find ways to engage their workers and make them participants in the safety program. Find a way to make the meetings more dynamic, more interactive. Give recognition, celebrate success, have fun and make it a positive experience. Instruction is important, but think of training and instruction as the platform for safety behavior, because it's the behavior that will make a difference. Give workers a solid platform, and then create a culture where safety is the most important part of their job. Make it personal so that people are more involved and feel a greater part of the company. When workers, especially workers in jobs that require physical tasks, are being recognized and appreciated for being saf, and for making suggestions and for being a good teammate, they not only are safer. They are better workers and better employees.

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