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A great deal of uncertainty exists regarding the effectiveness of safety incentive programs in construction. Most research on incentives involves case studies and theoretical analyses of their advantages and disadvantages. Using primary survey data from construction firms and craftworkers, this article examines the impact of incentives on the safety performance of U.S. construction firms. The study found that incentives are effective at improving many of the safety performance metrics used in construction. However, differences exist within the industry regarding perceptions of their effectiveness. The performance of the construction industry has a tremendous effect on the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, when one includes construction-related business involving design, equipment and materials manufacturing and supply, the construction industry accounts for 13 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP), making it the largest manufacturing industry in the U.S. Unfortunately, the construction industry does not achieve this performance without significant cost to the safety and health of the workforce. According to NIOSH, 13.3 workers per 100,000 in construction were injured in 2001. Furthermore, the total number of U.S. fatalities in private construction in 2001 was 1,225—one-fifth of all workplace fatalities in the U.S.
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24 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY JULY 2004 www.asse.org
ASSE Foundation Research
ASSE Foundation Research
Safety
Incentives
A study of their effectiveness in construction
By Paul M. Goodrum and Manish Gangwar
A GREAT DEAL OF UNCERTAINTY exists regarding
the effectiveness of safety incentive programs in construc-
tion. Most research on incentives involves case studies
and theoretical analyses of their advantages and disad-
vantages. Using primary survey data from construction
firms and craftworkers, this article examines the impact of
incentives on the safety performance of U.S. construction
firms. The study found that incentives are effective at
improving many of the safety performance metrics used in
construction. However, differences exist within the indus-
try regarding perceptions of their effectiveness.
The performance of the construction industry has
a tremendous effect on the U.S. economy. According
to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, when one
includes construction-related business involving
design, equipment and materials manufacturing and
supply, the construction industry accounts for 13 per-
cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP),
making it the largest manufacturing industry in the
U.S. Unfortunately, the construction industry does
not achieve this performance without sig-
nificant cost to the safety and health of the
workforce. According to NIOSH, 13.3
workers per 100,000 in construction were
injured in 2001. Furthermore, the total
number of U.S. fatalities in private con-
struction in 2001 was 1,225—one-fifth of
all workplace fatalities in the U.S.
Since the inception of OSHA in 1971,
the safety performance of all U.S. indus-
tries has improved. According to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of
fatalities in construction alone has been
reduced by half. This improvement is
attributed to many industry efforts, such
as adopting safer technologies, improved
work methods, better training and more
thorough accident investigations.
Another measure some construction
firms take to improve safety is the use of
safety incentives. However, a great deal of
debate surrounds the ability of incentives
to improve not only safety but also other construc-
tion performance measures. In particular, there is
concern about the viability of incentives as a provider
of substantial long-term improvements (Prichard).
Literature Review
Much has been written about the advantages and
disadvantages of safety incentive programs. Pro-
ponents claim that worker behavior is affected by
prevailing conditions and events. Behavior can be
reinforced by positive feedback and discouraged by
negative consequences (Geller 35). Furthermore, it is
believed that incentives in the form of reward
encourage and promote safe behavior and eventual-
ly improve safety performance (Geller 34; Sims).
Skeptics argue that safety incentive programs do
not provide long-term improvement of safety (AFL-
CIO). They question the motivation provided by
these programs, since working safely already deliv-
ers significant intrinsic benefits to workers. Critics
believe that attributing improved safety perform-
ance to incentives is misleading, since anecdotal evi-
dence suggests these improvements diminish or
even fall below original levels once the incentive
programs end (Geller 34).
Another major concern is that these programs do
not actually improve the safety behavior targeted, but
merely change the reporting of incidents; incentive
programs may cause employees to not report acci-
dents so that they can qualify for awards. Indeed,
OSHA has addressed the concern of inaccurate acci-
dent reporting due to incentives in its Voluntary
Protection Programs (VPP) policies and procedures
manual. “The on-site evaluation [of a company’s safe-
ty incentive program] will focus on the incentive pro-
gram’s potential impact on the accuracy of reporting
injury and illnesses data” [OSHA(b)].
In 1998, OSHA worked with Dennison Associ-
ates, an independent agency, to review the perform-
ance of safety incentive programs across multiple
industries. This study examined the results of 27 dif-
ferent research projects on safety incentive programs
Paul M. Goodrum, Ph.D., P.E.,
is an assistant professor in civil
engineering at the University of
Kentucky, where he teaches
undergraduate and graduate
courses in construction engineering
and project management.
Goodrum has worked
professionally in industry in both
design and heavy construction.
His areas of specialty include
construction productivity,
applied technologies and
construction safety.
Manish Gangwar is a graduate
student at the University of
Kentucky, where he is pursuing a
master’s degree in construction
management. Gangwar worked in
construction for five years before
enrolling at the university.
www.asse.org JULY 2004 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY 25
tiveness through
regular tests and by
providing two-way
feedback.
These programs
also help eliminate
injury hiding by re-
moving a direct link
between an award
and the number of
accidents reported.
Behavior-based
observation can also
provide data about
equipment and facil-
ities that put work-
ers at risk for injury.
A downside of
behavior-based
incentive programs
is that they are
comparatively diffi-
cult to measure and
monitor because em-
ployee behavior is
inherently more
complex and diffi-
cult to gauge (Geller
39). In addition,
employee behavior
changes constantly
in reaction to exter-
nal factors such as
new facilities, new
equipment and new
workgroups.
Other Issues
with Safety
Incentive
Programs
In both types of
incentive programs,
motivation is a criti-
cal factor. Positive
reinforcement, feed-
back, and recogni-
tion and reward are
considered the four
major components
for motivation in an
incentive program
(Daniels). Positive
reinforcement,
which means any-
thing that increases
the desired behavior,
is considered the weakest and most misunderstood
link (Geller 37; Daniels). Positive reinforcement can be
a small gift or simple praise. Everyone has different
likes and dislikes, which change over time, making
reinforcement even harder to identify (Daniels).
Another important point about effective positive rein-
that existed from 1971 to 1987 among U.S. compa-
nies [OSHA(a) 10-15]. Incentive programs were
divided into two main categories: 1) programs that
reward improved safe work practices; and 2) pro-
grams that reward reductions in the number of
injuries and illnesses reported [OSHA(a) 4-6]. The
report found that all programs reviewed under these
categories shared some improvement in safe work
practices but not all safety-related work practices
improved in all studies [OSHA(a) 7]. The study
found no direct link between safety incentive pro-
grams and the reported number of injuries.
Forms of Safety Incentive Programs
Safety incentive programs can be divided into
two categories: 1) injury/illness-based incentive pro-
grams; and 2) behavior-based incentive programs.
Injury/Illness-Based Programs
Injury/illness-based safety incentive programs
are based on the number of injuries and/or illnesses
as a criterion to reward workers and crews.
Individuals or groups are rewarded for avoiding or
lowering accidents during predefined periods.
These programs work on the underlying assump-
tions that: 1) facilities and equipment are safe and do
not cause any accidents; 2) workers have proper
training and knowledge to use equipment; and
3) accidents are primarily the result of worker negli-
gence or compromise on safety (Smith 44).
One problem with this approach is that it directly
equates prizes with a number of injuries (Krause 28).
Injury/illness-based programs present the tempta-
tion for workers to not report an injury so they will
not lose individual incentives or be the reason that
the whole group does not receive an award (Geller
37; Flanders and Lawrence). Another concern is that
these programs may become trivial and hard to dis-
continue in the long-run because workers can view
incentives as an entitlement; discontinuation may
cause significant negative impact (Smith 44).
Injury/illness-based incentive programs may
also provide false feedback and cause mistrust
between workers and management (Krause and
McCorquodale 34; Prichard; Smith 44). For example,
suppose a crew makes a substantial effort to avoid
injuries, yet unfortunately experiences an accident.
As a result, this crew will not receive an incentive.
Meanwhile, another crew that makes no effort to
avoid injury may manage to do so and, thus, may
still receive a reward.
Behavior-Based Programs
Behavior-based safety incentive programs observe
worker behavior as a criterion for awarding incen-
tives. Examples of rewarded behavior include partici-
pating in safety meetings and training; offering
suggestions about how to improve jobsite safety; and
other behavior that can help prevent accidents.
Although such programs solve the problem of erro-
neous feedback and improve attendance in meetings
and training, their effectiveness is still questioned. To
address this problem, some sites gauge program effec-
Statistics Terms
Pearson Correlation
The correlation between two variables shows
the degree to which the variables are related.
Pearson correlation ranges from +1 to -1, where
+1 represents a perfect linear correlation
between the variables and -1 represents a per-
fectly inverse linear relationship between the
variables. Zero denotes there is absolutely no
linear relationship between two variables.
P-Value/Significance Value
P-value—sometimes called the significance
value—represents the probability of getting
something as rare or extreme as the given
result. Therefore, the lower the probability, the
less chance there is that two samples are from
the same population. Statistically, a P-value of
less than 0.05, which is five percent, is consid-
ered acceptable to reason that the discrepancy
between two samples is assumed to be a result
of two different populations, or, in other words,
that two samples represent two different
population groups with different measured
characteristics.
ANOVA
Analysis of variance (ANOVA) determines the
probability that two or more samples were
drawn from the same parent population. The
purpose of an ANOVA is to verify that the
means of a measured variable for two or more
samples are different enough to not have
occurred by chance. In other words, if the
group means do not differ significantly, it is
inferred that the independent variable(s) did
not have an effect on the dependent variable.
The key statistics in ANOVA are the degrees of
freedom (df) and the F-value that are used to
identify the significance value.
Chi-Square analysis
Chi-square is a non-parametric test of statistical
significance for cross-tabular or discontinuous
data. Like the F statistics in ANOVA, the chi-
square indicates the degree of confidence one
can have in accepting or rejecting a hypothesis.
Chi-square statistics, along with the degree of
freedom, provide similar information about
nominal data—whether they belong to one
group or to two different groups of dissimilar
characteristics.
26 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY JULY 2004 www.asse.org
criterion rather than competition to avoid unneces-
sary rifts among workers and crews (Opfer). It is also
believed that it is better to reward many participants
rather than an individual (Geller 38; Opfer).
Likewise, a group should not be penalized for the
failure of an individual’s action (Geller 38). This is
reflective of the belief that safety is a team effort and
individuals do not cause accidents. Rather, accidents
are the collective failure of the group. Most impor-
tantly, safety incentives are not a panacea to improve
safety. Others have found that incentives cannot
work without a comprehensive safety program that
addresses training, culture, drug testing and other
critical elements (Opfer; Hinze 82; Trahan).
Study Methodology
Clearly, significant differences of opinion exist on
the effectiveness of safety incentives. The quantified
effect of incentive programs on construction safety
performance remains uncertain. Also, little is known
about how different implementation schemes of safe-
ty incentives affect their performance. Furthermore,
little is known about the effectiveness of safety incen-
tives based on the perceptions and experiences of con-
struction craftworkers. This article examines the
effects of safety incentive programs on construction
safety performance using industry data. First, differ-
forcement is that it
should immediately
follow the desired
behavior, which is
why positive rein-
forcement should be
a daily affair (Dan-
iels; Geller 38; Hinze
84). Ideally, peers are
in the best position
to deliver positive
reinforcement.
To provide posi-
tive reinforcement,
incentives can be
awarded in different forms. Efficient incentives need
to have more personal value than a significant dollar
value. The dollar value of incentives is unimportant
as long as the incentive is meaningful and a positive
reinforcer to the worker (Toft). In addition, incentives
should be distributed separately from normal com-
pensation (Opfer). Many successful programs rely on
low-cost gifts with high perceived value for this very
reason. Leboeuf identified 10 categories of incentives:
1) recognition; 2) time off; 3) stock ownership; 4) spe-
cial assignments; 5) advancement; 6) increased auton-
omy; 7) training and education; 8) social gatherings;
9) prizes; and 10) money (Sims; Toft). Some experts
suggest that an incentive preceded by a celebration
gives worker the opportunity to relive the event and
further reinforce the behavior (Geller 37). Incentives
and rewards should be specified and should be per-
ceived as achievable (Geller 39). Finally, incentives
should be based on long-term progress rather than on
short-term achievement (Opfer).
Who will be rewarded is also an important con-
sideration. Some have found that everyone who
meets the criteria should be rewarded (Geller 39;
Opfer). This gives workers a sense of belonging and
makes them feel they are part of the safety initiative.
Furthermore, incentives should be based on absolute
Breakdown by State
Total
State Responses Percentage
Kentucky 35 21.21
North Carolina 25 15.15
Tennessee 20 12.12
Ohio 16 9.70
Georgia 16 9.70
Virginia 16 9.70
Indiana 15 9.09
Florida 11 6.67
Alabama 7 4.24
Others 4 2.42
Table 1
Table 1 Figure 1
Figure 1
Breakdown by Work Type
Differences in Annual
Volume of Work, 2001
Number of Mean Pearson
Companies Volume F-Value Significance Correlation
With SIP 85 $101 mil 4.82 0.03 -0.18
Without SIP 54 $21 mil
Note: SIP denotes safety incentive program.
Table 2
Table 2
www.asse.org JULY 2004 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY 27
both heavy and building construction, and 12 per-
cent were specialty contractors (Figure 1).
Survey results were coded into SPSS (statistical
analysis software) for detailed statistical analysis.
Frequency tables, box plot, chi-square and analysis
of variances (ANOVA) were used to analyze the sur-
vey results (see sidebar on pg. 25).
Research Sample for Craftworkers’ Survey
The second survey was a one-page survey for
construction craftworkers of companies with safety
incentive programs. The researchers contacted six
construction firms in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee
who agreed to administer and return the completed
survey. To help protect respondent anonymity, the
survey requested no information regarding the
respondent or his/her employer. The total sample
size for this survey was 252 workers. The mean
years of experience in the construction industry of
all workers surveyed was 16.14. Fifty percent of the
workers had less than 15 years of construction expe-
rience, and 10 percent had more than 31 years of
construction experience.
Measures of Safety Performance
To quantify the effectiveness of safety incentive
programs, four different measures of safety per-
formance were collected in the managers’ survey:
1) OSHA recordable cases. Cases when workers,
due to an injury/illness sustained at work, must
visit a doctor for more than first aid.
2) Lost-time workday cases. Cases when work-
ers, due to an injury/illness sustained at work, are
ences in safety per-
formance data be-
tween construction
firms with safety
incentive programs
and those without
are analyzed. Then,
the impact of differ-
ent implementation
schemes is assessed.
Finally, craftwork-
ers’ experiences with
these programs are
examined.
Data Collection
A great deal of previous
research on safety incentives is
based on anecdotal evidence.
To collect empirical data on the
use of safety incentives and
company safety performance,
two surveys were developed: a
managers’ survey and a craft-
workers’ survey. The man-
agers’ survey was designed for
company safety directors and
other SH&E professionals in
charge of their company’s pro-
grams. This survey examined
how companies administered their safety incentive
program, safety performance data, and the percep-
tions and experiences that each company had with
its incentive program. The craftworkers’ survey was
administered only to workers who were currently
employed by a construction firm that used safety
incentives. This survey examined their personal
experiences and perceptions of participating in a
safety incentive program.
Research Sample for Managers’ Survey
In the process of creating the managers’ survey, an
extensive literature review was performed. Based on
previous findings and the research objectives, a pilot
survey was created and administered to three gener-
al contractors in Kentucky and Tennessee. Their com-
ments and suggestions were incorporated into the
actual survey. Next, the managers’ survey was
administered by mail to several construction firms in
the Midwest and southeastern U.S. Of the 165 sur-
veys received, 22 percent were collected from con-
tractors in Kentucky; 14 percent from North Carolina;
12 percent from Tennessee; 10 percent each from
Ohio, Georgia and Virginia; and the remaining 22 per-
cent from Indiana, Florida, Alabama, Illinois, West
Virginia, Michigan, Missouri and Texas (Table 1).
In 2001, the average number of workers for the
sampled companies was 199. Fifty percent of the
companies had less than 67 workers in 2001, and 10
percent had more than 368 workers. Of the 165 sam-
pled companies, 42 percent were engaged in only
building construction, 29 percent were involved in
heavy construction, 14 percent were involved in
Objectives Behind Implementing an SIP
Objective Primary (3) Secondary (2) Tertiary (1) Total Weight
To change workers’ behavior 37 26 15 178
To improve workers’ awareness 29 37 9 170
To reduce recordable accidents 21 11 21 106
To minimize losses 4 5 20 42
To minimize safety-related claims 1 7 9 26
To maintain good safety records 3 2 12 25
Table 3
Table 3
Safety Performance Based on 2001 SIP
With SIP Without SIP
Mean N Mean N df F-Value Sig.
Lost-time workday incidence rates 1.45 81 4.99 56 136 9.35 0.00
Restricted workday incidence rates 1.26 74 2.53 54 127 3.65 0.06
OSHA recordable incidence rates 4.20 79 5.46 54 132 1.68 0.20
Note: Sample size does not equal 165 due to nonresponse.
Table 4
Table 4
28 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY JULY 2004 www.asse.org
not able to perform work fully
or partly; this is a subset of total
OSHA recordable cases.
3) Restricted workday cases.
Cases when workers are not
able to work to their full capaci-
ty due to an injury/illness sus-
tained at work, and are
assigned a lower workload;
these cases are part of lost-time
workday cases.
4) Experience modification
rate (EMR). EMR is primarily
used to establish workers’
compensation (WC) insurance
premium rates. EMR calcula-
tions are based on each em-
ployer’s compensation claim
experience over its last three years as com-
pared to the average of the industry. EMR
takes into account the number of accidents
as well as the severity of cases. The man-
agers’ survey also collected total employ-
ee hours from each company; this allowed
recordable, lost-time and restricted inci-
dence rates to be calculated for each com-
pany using the following equation:
Incidence rate =
Number of cases x 200,000
Total employee hours per year (1)
Data Analysis
Breakdown of Companies With &
Without Safety Incentive Programs
Of the 165 companies sampled, 59 per-
cent had a safety incentive program in
2001 and 41 percent did not. The mean
safety incentive program was 5.87 years
old. Fifty percent of the companies that
had an incentive program had the pro-
gram for less than four years, while 10
percent of the companies with a safety
incentive program had used the program
for more than 12 years. Significant correla-
tion was found between the annual vol-
ume of work and safety incentive
programs. Companies with a safety incen-
tive program also had a substantial and
statistically significant larger mean vol-
ume of work compared to those with no
incentive program. Those with an incen-
tive program had a mean volume of work
of $101 million compared to $21 million
for companies without a safety incentive
program (Table 2). An F-value of 4.82
shows the difference in work volume to be
statistically significant.
To begin to understand the motivation
of why construction companies implement
a safety incentive program, the managers’
survey asked each respondent whose company had
such a program to rate six objectives, in order of pref-
EMR for Different Years Based on SIP
With SIP Without SIP
Mean N Mean N df F-Value Sig.
2001 EMR with SIP 0.773 53 0.849 62 114 6.05 0.02
implemented in 1999
2001 EMR with SIP 0.760 41 0.844 74 114 6.69 0.01
implemented in 1998
2001 EMR with SIP 0.734 36 0.851 79 114 12.74 0.00
implemented in 1997
2000 EMR with SIP 0.763 40 0.861 72 111 6.25 0.01
implemented in 1998
2000 EMR with SIP 0.730 35 0.870 77 111 10.53 0.00
implemented in 1997
1999 EMR with SIP 0.764 34 0.890 69 102 3.81 0.00
implemented in 1997
Table 6
Table 6
Differences in Change of EMR Based
on Various Timeframes for SIP
With SIP Without SIP
Mean N Mean N df F-Value Sig.
Difference in EMR -0.039 29 -0.008 56 84 0.04 0.50
between 2001 and 1997
with SIP 1997
Difference in EMR -0.022 34 -0.047 56 89 0.41 0.52
between 2001 and 1998
with SIP 1998
Difference in EMR -0.025 48 -0.043 54 101 0.34 0.56
between 2001 and 1999
with SIP 1999
Table 7
Table 7
Differences in Performance Change
Based on 2000 SIP
With SIP Without SIP
Mean N Mean N df F-Value Sig.
Lost-time workday incidence -1.02 60 1.41 55 114 4.82 0.03
difference between 2001 and 1999
Restricted workday incidence 0.53 57 0.80 54 110 0.15 0.70
difference between 2001 and 1999
OSHA recordable incidence -0.92 61 -0.18 53 113 0.74 0.39
difference between 2001 and 1999
Table 5
Table 5
www.asse.org JULY 2004 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY 29
incidence rate in 2001 for companies with a safety
incentive program was 1.26 compared to 2.53 for
those without such a program. The difference was
statistically significant at the 94 percent confidence
interval with an F-value of 3.65 (Table 4).
Finally, of the 133 companies that indicated their
OSHA recordable incidence rates, a difference was
found in mean OSHA recordable incidence rates.
erence, for implementing the program. The
objectives were to: 1) reduce recordable
accidents; 2) improve safety awareness
among workers; 3) change workers’ behav-
ior to adopt safer work practices; 4) main-
tain good safety records; 5) minimize
safety-related claims; and 6) minimize loss-
es. Table 3 shows the number of companies
rating each objective as primary, secondary
and tertiary.
To identify the three most preferred
objectives for implementing a safety incen-
tive program, different weights (3 for pri-
mary, 2 for secondary and 1 for tertiary)
were assigned to the number of responses
for each objective. For example, 21 compa-
nies weighted “to reduce recordable
accidents” as their primary objective;
11 companies weighted the same as their
secondary objective; and 21 companies
weighted the same as their tertiary objec-
tive. Therefore, the total weight for this cri-
terion was (21 x 3) + (11 x 2) + (21 x 1)=106
(Table 3). Based on this calculation, the top
three objectives for implementing a safety
incentive program were to:
1) change worker behavior to adopt
safer work practices;
2) improve safety awareness among
workers;
3) reduce recordable accidents.
As seen, many companies use a safety
incentive program not only to reduce acci-
dent rates but also to have an impact on
worker behavior. By changing worker
behavior and safety awareness, safety per-
formance should improve. The next sec-
tion of the analysis examined whether this
expectation is actually being achieved.
Effectiveness of Safety Incentive
Program in Terms of Various Safety
Performance Indicators
To estimate the impact of incentives on
safety performance, the lost-time, restrict-
ed and recordable rates were compared
between companies that did and did not
have a safety incentive program in 2001
(Table 4). Among the 137 companies that
indicated their lost-time workday inci-
dence rates, a significant difference was
seen in the mean lost-time workday inci-
dence rates between companies with and
without a safety incentive program in
2001. Companies with a program had a
mean lost-time incidence rate of 1.45 compared to
4.99 for those without a program, which was statis-
tically significant with an F-value of 9.35 (Table 4).
Of the 128 companies that indicated their restrict-
ed workday incidence rates, there was also a differ-
ence in mean restricted workday incidence rates
between companies with and without a safety incen-
tive program in 2001. The mean restricted workday
Differences Due to Crew
or Worker Performance
Worker Only Crew*
Performance Mean N Mean N df F-Value Sig.
Lost-time workday 1.27 35 1.68 38 72 0.31 0.58
incidence 2001
Restricted workday 1.09 31 1.34 35 65 0.32 0.58
incidence 2001
OSHA recordable 4.08 33 4.14 38 70 0.00 0.96
incidence 2001
EMR 2001 0.79 32 0.81 32 63 0.20 0.66
*Workers and supervisors
Table 8
Table 8
Differences Due to Measuring Criteria
Injuries Behavior Both
Mean N Mean N Mean N Sig.
Lost-time workday 1.24 30 1.57 25 1.77 18 0.84
incidence 2001
Restricted workday 1.39 27 0.80 21 1.74 18 0.27
incidence 2001
OSHA recordable 5.06 29 4.06 24 3.88 18 0.63
incidence 2001
EMR 2001 0.84 27 0.79 22 0.78 15 0.51
Table 9
Table 9
Differences Due to Incentive Period
Less than Monthly to More than
One Month Quarterly Six Months
Mean N Mean N Mean N Sig.
Lost-time workday 1.07 26 1.34 21 1.99 30 0.52
incidence 2001
Restricted workday 1.07 22 1.68 19 1.04 29 0.43
incidence 2001
OSHA recordable 3.81 25 5.51 21 3.66 29 0.32
incidence 2001
EMR 2001 0.796 22 0.829 18 0.813 28 0.85
Table 10
Table 10
30 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY JULY 2004 www.asse.org
ferences in OSHA recordable incidence rates were
also not statistically significant with a F-value of 0.74
(Table 5).
Next, the research examined differences in EMR.
Since EMR reflects a three-year average of a compa-
ny’s safety performance, EMR for particular years
was compared with respect to when each company’s
safety incentive program was implemented in previ-
ous years (Table 6). The mean 2001 EMR for compa-
nies that implemented a safety incentive program in
1999 was 0.773 compared to 0.849 for companies
with no incentive program in 1999, a difference of
0.076. This difference was statistically significant
with an F-value of 6.05.
The difference in EMR between companies with
and without a safety incentive program increased
with the age of the program. The 2001 EMR for com-
panies that implemented a safety incentive program
The mean rate of companies with a safety incentive
program was 4.20 compared to 5.46 for companies
without a program. However, the difference was
only statistically significant at the 80 percent confi-
dence interval with an F-value of 1.68 (Table 4).
Change in Safety Performance from 1999 to 2001
To identify whether safety performance changed
differently over time as a result of safety incentive
programs, differences in the change of various inci-
dence rates from 1999 to 2001 were compared
between companies with and without a safety incen-
tive program in 2000. (Year 2001 was the latest inci-
dence rates available for the study. Year 2000 was
chosen to ensure that affects of a safety incentive
program were reasonably reflected in the 2001 data.)
For companies that had such a program in 2000,
the mean lost-time workday incidence rate from
1999 to 2001 decreased by 1.02,
representing a decline of 44.16
percent from the 1999 mean
lost-time workday incidence
rate of 2.31. In comparison, for
companies without a safety
incentive program in 2000, the
mean lost-time workday inci-
dence rate from 1999 to 2001
increased by 1.41, representing
an increase of 41.84 percent
from the 1999 lost-time work-
day incidence rate of 3.37. The
differences were statistically
significant with an F-value of
4.82 (Table 5).
However, the mean restrict-
ed workday incidence rate from 1999 to
2001 increased for both categories of com-
panies. For companies that had a safety
incentive program in 2000, the increase
was 0.53, representing an increase of 29.43
percent from the 1999 mean restricted
workday incidence rate of 1.80.
For companies with no safety incentive
program in 2000, the increase was 0.80,
representing an increase of 55.96 percent
from the 1999 mean restricted workday
incidence rate of 1.43. However, the differ-
ences in incidence rates were not statisti-
cally significant with an F-value of only
0.15 (Table 5).
Furthermore, the mean OSHA record-
able incidence rates for companies with a
safety incentive program from 1999 to
2001 reduced by 0.92, representing a
decline of 15.78 percent from the 1999
mean OSHA recordable incidence rate of
5.83. In comparison, the mean OSHA
recordable incidence rate for companies
with no safety incentive program from
1999 to 2001 reduced by 0.18, a decline of
3.08 percent from the 1999 mean OSHA
recordable incidence rate of 5.84. The dif-
Differences Due to Award Type
Tangible Both
Award Type Mean N Mean N df F-Value Sig.
Lost-time workday 1.13 54 2.35 24 77 2.73 0.10
incidence 2001
Restricted workday 1.04 50 1.87 21 70 2.94 0.09
incidence 2001
OSHA recordable 3.93 53 5.24 23 75 1.30 0.26
incidence 2001
EMR 2001 0.82 46 0.78 24 69 1.04 0.31
Table 11
Table 11
Figure 2
Figure 2
Perceptions about SIPs:
Overall Value
Note: Chi-square value of difference is 52.75 with 4 df and a P-value
of 0.00.
Safety
incentives
cannot
work
without
a safety
program
that
addresses
training,
culture
and other
critical
elements.
www.asse.org JULY 2004 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY 31
other time periods examined in the study (Table 6).
The study then examined whether changes in EMR
were related to the use of a safety incentive program.
As Table 7 shows, there was no statistically signifi-
cant difference in EMR changes between 1997 and
2001 for the companies studied. For
example, the mean EMR decreased by
0.039 for those with a safety incentive pro-
gram as compared to a decrease of 0.008
for those without such a program. This
difference was not statistically significant
with an F-value of 0.04.
Descriptive Statistics of Companies
with a Safety Incentive Program
To assess whether differences existed
regarding how safety incentives are
implemented, the research examined dif-
ferences in safety performance among just
those companies that had a safety incen-
tive program in 2001. The research exam-
ined several factors to determine whether
they made any difference in safety meas-
ures among those companies with a safe-
ty incentive program: 1) who received
incentives; 2) which type of incentives
(injury- or behavior-based) were used;
3) the time period for awarding incentives;
and 4) the type of award presented.
Forty-six companies—46.9 percent of
those with a safety incentive program—
evaluated only individual worker per-
formance as an award criterion for the
program. However, 44 companies—45 per-
cent—evaluated whole-crew performance
to award safety incentives. Meanwhile,
eight companies—8.2 percent—did not
respond to this question. The research
examined whether differences existed
based on who received incentives.
Although companies that awarded incen-
tives to workers only had slightly lower
ratings, none of the differences were statis-
tically significant (Table 8).
Thirty-eight companies—38.8 percent
of those with a safety incentive program—
based their program on injuries only,
while 28 companies—28.6 percent of those
with an incentive program—based their
safety incentive program on behavior
only. Twenty-three companies (23.5 per-
cent) based their program on both injuries
and behavior. However, nine companies,
9.2 percent of the companies with a safety
incentive program, did not respond to this
question (Table 9). There appeared to be
little to no relation in accident rates and
whether award criterion was based on
injuries or behavior. Various incidence
rates and EMR for 2001 were not statisti-
cally different for companies that meas-
ured injuries, behavior or both (Table 9).
in 1997 was 0.734 compared to 0.851 for companies
that had not implemented a safety incentive pro-
gram in 1997, a difference of 0.117. In fact, firms with
a safety incentive program consistently had a lower
and statistically significant different EMR for all
Figure 4
Figure 4
Perceptions about SIPs:
Impact on Worker Behavior
Note: Chi-square value of difference is 16.41 with 4 df and a P-value
of 0.00.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Perceptions about SIPs:
Reducing Accidents
Note: Chi-square value of difference is 29.27 with 4 df and a P-value
of 0.00.
32 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY JULY 2004 www.asse.org
started, in comparison to 35.7 percent that had not
altered their program since its inception (3.1 percent
of companies with a safety incentive program in
2001 did not respond to this question). The study
also examined whether the size of the incentive—as
measured by its cost—had an impact on its effec-
tiveness. In this sample of safety incentive programs,
no such relation was found.
Next, the research examined whether the time
period during which incentives were awarded made
any difference. Of 98 companies reported to have a
safety incentive program in 2001, 30.6 percent
awarded incentives each month; 26.5 percent
rewarded employees quarterly to bi-annually; and
36.7 percent rewarded employees bi-annually or less
often. Furthermore, 6.1 percent of the participants
did not respond to this question. Again,
various incidence rates and EMR for 2001
were not statistically different among
companies with different timeframes for
awarding safety incentives (Table 10).
The research also examined whether
the type of award—tangible versus intan-
gible—made any difference. Sixty-six
companies (67.3 percent of those with an
incentive program) awarded tangible
items such as cash, lottery, gifts and
prizes. No company reported to award
only intangible items such as trophies, cer-
tificates, time off and parties. However, 29
companies (39.6 percent) awarded both
tangible and intangible awards (Table 11).
Companies that distributed only tangi-
ble awards had lower lost-time and
restricted workday incidence rates than
those which distributed both tangible and
intangible awards. Firms that gave only
tangible awards had a mean lost-time inci-
dence rate of 1.13 and a restricted inci-
dence rate of 1.04 compared to 2.35 and
1.87, respectively, for companies that also
gave intangible awards. The statistical sig-
nificance for both these differences was at
or above the 90 percent confidence level
(Table 11). Although companies that gave
only tangible awards also had lower
recordables and EMR, these differences
were not statistically significant.
The managers’ survey collected addi-
tional data about whether companies had
other incentive programs (outside of safe-
ty); whether safety performance evalua-
tion of supervisors was linked to safety
incentives; whether a safety incentive pro-
gram was changed after its inception; who
attended award ceremonies; and who
received incentives. For companies that
had a safety incentive program in 2001, 49
percent had other incentive programs,
compared to 43.9 percent with no other
incentive program (7.1 percent did not
respond to the question). In addition, 72.4
percent of companies with a safety incen-
tive program in 2001 linked supervisor’s
performance to safety incentives, com-
pared to 22.4 percent that did not (5.2 per-
cent of companies with a safety incentive
program did not respond).
In addition, 61.2 percent had changed
their safety incentive program since it
Figure 5
Figure 5
Perceptions about SIPs:
Increasing Safety Awareness
Note: Chi-square value of difference is 18.13 with 4 df and a P-value
of 0.00.
Figure 6
Figure 6
Perceptions about SIPs:
Long-Term Improvement
Note: Chi-square value of difference is 12.55 with 4 df and a P-value
of 0.01.
Craft
workers
have a
more
favorable
opinion
regarding
the effec-
tiveness of
safety
incentives
than do
safety
directors.
www.asse.org JULY 2004 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY 33
Management &
Craftworker Perceptions
The study also examined differences in opinion
between management and workers about various
issues regarding safety incentive programs. The sur-
veys asked 165 company safety directors and other
management personnel, as well as 252 craftworkers,
their opinions on: 1) the overall value of a safety
incentive program; 2) its ability to reduce recordable
accidents; 3) its impact on worker behavior; 4) the
program’s ability to increase safety awareness
among workers; and 5) its ability to provide long-
term improvements in safety (Figures 2-6).
Overall, craftworkers have a more
favorable opinion regarding the effective-
ness of safety incentives than do safety
directors and other managers who oversee
the programs. For example, 42 percent of
surveyed craftworkers indicated there was
an extreme overall value in safety incentive
programs compared to five percent of sur-
veyed SH&E managers. Craftworkers had
a greater overall value of safety incentive
programs than was perceived by manage-
ment in charge of the programs. The differ-
ence was significantly different with a
chi-square value of 52.76 with 4 degrees of
freedom and a P-value of 0.00.
Likewise, workers’ perception about the
ability of safety incentive program to
reduce recordable incidence rates was more
positive than that of management. The dif-
ference was significantly different with a
chi-square value of 29.27 with 4 degrees of
freedom and a P-value of 0.00. Workers’
perception about a program’s ability to
change their safety behavior was also more
positive than management’s perception.
This difference was significantly different
with a chi-square value of 16.41 with 4
degrees of freedom and a P-value of 0.00.
Employees’ perception about the pro-
grams’ ability to increase safety awareness
among workers was more positive than
management’s. The difference was signifi-
cantly different with a chi-square value of
18.13 with 4 degrees of freedom and a
P-value of 0.00. Finally, workers’ percep-
tion about the ability of safety incentives to
improve long-term safety performance
was more positive than was manage-
ment’s perception. Again, this difference
was significantly different with a chi-
square value of 12.55 with 4 degrees of
freedom and a P-value of 0.01.
Advantages & Disadvantages
of Safety Incentive Programs:
Worker Perceptions
To further examine the experience that
workers have with safety incentive pro-
grams, craftworkers were asked to identify
both advantages and disadvantages of
Of those with a safety incentive program in 2001,
10.2 percent awarded safety incentives to their work-
ers only; 11.2 percent awarded safety incentives to
everyone but workers; 13.3 percent awarded safety
incentives to workers and foremen only; 62.2 percent
awarded safety incentives to everyone—workers,
foremen, superintendents, safety personnel, field
engineers and even managers in some cases. None
of the cited factors influenced safety performance,
which was measured in terms of OSHA recordable
cases, lost-time workday cases, restricted workday
cases and EMR, of the companies surveyed in a sta-
tistically significant way.
Figure 7
Figure 7
Craftworkers’ Perspective
of SIPs: Advantages
Figure 8
Figure 8
Craftworkers’ Perspective
of SIPs: Disadvantages
34 PROFESSIONAL SAFETY JULY 2004 www.asse.org
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ty/issues/upload/factsheet1.pdf>.
Daniels, A. “Incentives, Safety and Performance Manage-
ment.” May 20, 2002.
Flanders, M.E. and T.W. Lawrence Jr. “Warning! Safety
Incentive Programs Under OSHA Scrutiny.” Professional Safety.
Dec. 1999: 29-31.
Geller, E.S. “The Truth about Safety Incentives.” Professional
Safety. Oct. 1996: 34-39.
Hinze, J. “Safety Incentives: Do They Reduce Injuries?”
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Docket No-S-777 Ex. 502-281. Washington, DC: OSHA, 1998.
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Manual. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Labor, OSHA, March 25,
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Prichard, R. “Safety Incentive Programs: A Critical Assess-
ment.” Dallas: International Risk Management Institute, April
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Sims, B. Jr.(a) “Effective Motivation.” May 21, 2002. <http://
www.billsims.com/oshmag2.php>.
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Smith, T.A. “What’s
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working under a safety incentive program. The most
popular advantage was making the workplace
safer—indicated in 41.1 percent of total responses.
This was followed by receiving the award as a bene-
fit in and of itself (22.1 percent); reduction in acci-
dents (17.9 percent); and increase in safety alertness
(16.3 percent) (Figure 7).
Meanwhile, workers identified the most popular
disadvantage as the fact that many accidents—and
the resulting loss of incentive—are not the fault of
workers themselves, but are the result of factors
beyond their control. In addition, 6.7 percent
believed safety incentive programs consume too
much of a worker’s time and slow production; 4.2
percent believed the programs are a slow way to
improve safety; and 4.2 percent believed that these
programs increase nonreporting of accidents (Figure
8). Meanwhile, 71.4 percent of surveyed craftwork-
ers said that the use of safety incentive programs
posed no disadvantages.
Conclusions
As a result of these findings, the following con-
clusions can be drawn.
1) Among the companies surveyed, those that
have a safety incentive program have lower lost-
time incidence rates, restricted incidence rates and
EMRs compared to companies that do not.
2) There is some indication, as measured by dif-
ferences in lost-time incidence rates, that the compa-
nies with a safety incentive program experienced a
greater improvement in safety between the studied
periods 1997 and 2001 compared to the companies
with no safety incentive program.
3) Rewards based on crew versus individual per-
formance, injury versus behavior performance and
different time periods for giving the awards made
no difference in effectiveness of the programs among
the sampled companies. However, companies that
used only tangible awards versus those that used
both tangible and intangible awards had slightly
better safety performance measures.
4) Craftworkers have a more favorable opinion of
the effectiveness of safety incentive program than do
company mangers.
5) While craftworkers recognize that safety incen-
tive programs have some disadvantages, most feel
there are no drawbacks and believe their greatest
advantage is improving jobsite safety.
While these findings support the use of safety
incentive programs to improve jobsite safety, such a
program should not exist by itself. Instead, it should
be part of an overall comprehensive SH&E program
that not only involves workforce training but also
engineers safety into the construction process. The
study found that safety is improved by the use of
incentives based on traditional outcome measures.
The study did not examine the impact of safety
incentives on worker behavior during the construc-
tion process. This is worthy of future research and
could be accomplished by incorporating behavior-
based safety measures.
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Practical Applications
It is evident that companies which want to
reduce their experience modification rates, lost-
time workday incidences and restricted work-
day incidences can use safety incentive
programs successfully. The study also found
that various other factors, such as injury- or
behavior-based incentive programs, period of
incentives and kind of awards, do not change
the effectiveness of safety incentive programs in
a significant way. It was also found that craft-
workers have a much more positive reaction to
incentives than do their managers. While safety
incentive programs do lead to awards being
given to craftworkers, most craftworkers think
that the greatest advantage of these programs is
the improvement in jobsite safety.
... To reduce accidents in construction sites, concrete motivational methods that can encourage workers to voluntarily participate in safety activities are necessary. A study conducted by Ghasemi et al. [7] presented that the accident prevention of construction sites was improved when an incentive system was introduced, and a study conducted by Goodrum and Gangwar [9] indicated that incentive program led to improvement of accident prevention in construction sites. Several big construction companies in Korea are applying incentive program to construction site so that these encourage construction workers to participate actively in accident prevention activities to prevent accidents. ...
... In their study, McAfee and Winn [10] investigated the findings of 24 [11] argued that safety incentive programs could be an effective factor of health and safety strategies when applied to interdependent teams sharing construction manager and worker relationships and safety rules. Goodrum et al. [9] stated that there is great uncertainty about the effects of safety incentive programs in the construction industry and that according to the results of a survey on the effects of incentive programs on US construction companies' safety performance, incentive programs were effective for the improvement of safety performance. Hasan and ...
... 3. Accidents occur due to workers' fault or negligence (Goodrum and Gangwar, 2004). ...
... Second, it may cause a miss communication and false feedback between crew members and management. Crew members may put a lot of e ort to practice safety habits and prevent an accident yet experience an accident and not receive rewards, whereas, another crew may not pay attention to any safety practices and by coincidence not encounter any accident and receive a reward (Goodrum and Gangwar, 2004). ...
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Chapter
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This paper presents a study on the effectiveness of safety incentive programs on construction sites in Klang Valley, Malaysia. Five construction projects that implemented safety incentive program were selected as case studies for this research. Interviews with the safety personnel for each project were conducted. The findings show that all selected case study projects had implemented a safety incentive program in different ways, such as using safety awards, housekeeping, unsafe behavior reporting, etc. However, there were issues and weaknesses in implementing these programs as raised by the respondents, which included miscommunication between the employee and the management, unsatisfactory safety awareness by employees, and so on. Some of the suggestions given by the respondents to minimize these problems included implementing communication courses, promoting programs through security campaigns and management involvement. The findings of this study provide information on the implementation of a safety incentive program at the construction site, and can also be used as a source of reference within the site safety management on how to properly implement the program.
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