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Employee incentive programs : the route to a safer workplace

The causes of accidents may vary, but the workplace in many industries is a dangerous place. More than 300,000 people are killed every year in accidents at work around the world. How could recognition and reward schemes help to reduce that figure? We talk to Raphaelle Rouvroy, Incentives & Recognition Marketing Director, Sodexo Benefits and Reward Services.

How big an issue is workplace safety?

Around the world, a worker dies from an occupational accident every 15 seconds[1]. That’s 321,000 people a year, from an estimated 317 million accidents at work! These International Labor Organization figures show the human cost of accidents, but there is also an economic price to pay. The ILO puts the cost of accidents and disease in the workplace at 4% of the world’s GDP, or about $2.8 trillion every year.


Are safety risks not limited to industry or construction?

A cafeteria cook, an office worker or a facilities manager may not seem particularly to be “at risk” but the truth is, accidents can occur anywhere. There are staircases in nearly every type of work setting. It just takes a single distraction to forget to place a warning sign near a freshly mopped staircase – or to leave a box unattended in a hallway – to create an unsafe environment.


What is the impact on companies?

Internally, it’s now a major issue for managers, who have a duty of care towards employees. Externally, there is market pressure for a company to be a “good citizen” – one that looks after its employees – along with increasing pressure from regulatory authorities. For example, companies can be prevented from responding to an invitation to tender if their Lost Time Injury Rate (LTIR) is not good enough.


Why is it important to improve workplace behaviors and how can Sodexo help?

Studies have shown that 52% of people would not intervene if they saw an unsafe behavior[2], 79% do not know where to log a Health & Safety concern[3] and 82% have never reported an H&S concern[4]! The starting point for employee incentive programs is that most accidents are down to the human factor, rather than machinery, and that the safety incentive is not just to follow procedures but to be proactive in identifying and dealing with risks. So, if you notice a pool of water or oil, or a dangling cable, you should get it cleared. It’s not just about your own safety, but being responsible for those around you as well.


But are these not just minor details?

No, because safety is a pyramid; at the base you have near-misses and minor incidents, and at the top are serious accidents. And there is a correlation: for every 600 near-misses, there are 10 minor accidents and one serious accident[5]. Our safety programs target the base of the pyramid, where we can make a real impact in terms of accident prevention – which then feeds up to the top. By linking the rewards to prevention, rather than a lagging indicator such as the LTIR, we avoid the risk of incidents being under-reported. Supported by a strong management culture and continuous improvement, our target is zero accidents.


So how does a reward system work?

We reward and recognize key preventive actions through a customized web platform and mobile App. We have identified a set of six major preventive actions that drive safety at work and that should be rewarded: safety observations, safety suggestions, safety walks, safety toolbox talks, safety quizzes and behavioral observations (of course, there could be other actions and behaviors to reward and / or recognize). To these safety preventive actions we add two types of recognition: peer to peer, and nominations for safety awards. These might be putting a congratulatory post-it note on someone’s workstation, praising them in public, entering them for a prize draw, or giving an award through our platform – which gives access to a large selection of rewards. Taken together, these small-scale initiatives change people’s behaviors in a big way – and make a real impact on an organization’s safety culture driving them to a zero accident mindset and continuous improvement


Apart from avoiding accidents, what are the other benefits of a stronger safety culture?

Safe environments do far more than prevent accidents. Individuals working under safe conditions do their jobs quicker and more efficiently. They also enjoy their work even more thanks to management commitment to their health and safety.  They are confident that improvement suggestions are taken into account and that corrective actions will happen. They feel listened to and recognized for their efforts. Their quality of life is significantly improved.

And once people begin to take safety more seriously at work, they don’t just switch off that mindset when they leave; they use it in their lives outside work and help others avoid injury as well.

Benefits are also numerous for employers: Not only do they experience a reduction of direct and indirect costs of accidents at company level, getting a return on investment from their reward program, but also they increase operational excellence, productivity and employee engagement.  Implementing rewards rather than penalties allows them to drive both leading and lagging indicators. The final impact is a reduction of Lost Time Injury Rate (LTIR) and Total Case Incident Rate (TCIR) or the achievement of zero accidents.


Why are proactive safety programs so important?

We are driving a safety culture shift from a “Policy, Policing & Penalty” approach to a Behavioral-led reward and recognition approach.  Our promise to our clients is to drive the culture in their companies towards a Zero Accident Mindset and a culture of continuous improvement.  It is also important to achieve sustainable results. There is always staff turnover and a constant change in working environments. Seasonality is also extremely important: an online retailer’s warehouse, for example, is busier in the run-up to Christmas than in summer.   


How do you maintain long-term success?

There are many ways to keep an employee incentive program fresh – a new quiz, a new training program or a new campaign; for example, for one client, we focused on electricity-related risks for one year and the following year, we concentrated on safe storage practices. Clients can also adjust the way points are awarded to prioritize certain safety actions. Sodexo has a wealth of expertise in benefits and rewards, and we can draw on that for our safety incentives.  



Zero accidents: It can be done!

An Oil & Gas industry client used our Safety Reward Program in the Gulf of Mexico, with site employees being awarded points every quarter for making five safety observations, one safety walk or safety examination, and five safety toolbox talks. Employees then used our online platform to convert their points into gifts. The LTIR was reduced by 39% in the first year, 100% in the second year and has remained at zero for the past three years! For another client, the hospitality services of a healthcare client in Europe, Sodexo’s program provided quarterly rewards for the number of safety observations made by participants. The LTIR fell by 30 percentage points in the first six months and remains on a downward trend, while safety awareness has risen.


[2] Technology professionals survey on environment, health and safety, Antea Group, June 2015
[3] P&MM Sodexo Health and Safety at Work Survey 2015; 1319 respondents employed by  52 organizations in the UK
[4] P&MM Sodexo Health and Safety at Work Survey 2015; 1319 respondents employed by 52 organizations in the UK
[5] Study by Frank E. Bird. 1969.

Christmas and End-Of-Year Celebration: 3 Ideas Amidst COVID-19



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This year, it will most probably be impossible to have a Christmas party or celebration event to thank employees for their hard work and dedication throughout 2020. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do to reward your teams! Here are three celebration ideas to close the year with a bang, recognize the efforts of your staff and keep spirits up in these difficult times. Idea #1: Organize…
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