The quarterly newsletter for Safety Professionals

Q1, 2012 ::Issue 27


training news


Safety Behaviour – The Positives and Negatives


Do you know if your employees use their safety knowledge?


Congratulations, you have taken steps to ensure your business has provided an environment designed to protect the health and safety of all your workers.  Yet how can you be assured your employees will use this safety knowledge and what is the organization’s role in continuing to support the “safety climate”?

It’s hard to fight unsafe behaviours when employees experience positive, instant and conditional rewards.  For example, not wearing protective equipment may mean the employee is more comfortable, some may go months or even years without wearing safety goggles and never experience an eye injury.  Safe actions, such as mopping up spills may require a slowdown in the work process which sometimes results in negative consequences like a “Warning to speed things up”!   It’s seldom that a worker gets a pat on the back for practicing proper lifting techniques or even when their safe habits are recognized, the award may be based on a safety behaviour practiced well over a year ago!

Management needs to motivate “consistent safety behaviour”; making it a priority on everyone’s mind.  It’s time to institute positive, immediate and dependable consequences that are associated with safe working procedures.  This can be accomplished by feedback or incentive based programs.  When given a choice between these two methods - employees felt that the immediate and increased positive feedback from supervisors meant upper management was more in tuned to creating, maintaining and actively participating in achieving a positive “safety climate”.   

If incentives are the way you want to go then, remember:

  • feedback alone may be enough of an incentive

  • the incentive should reflect positive safety behaviours, not the outcome of the overall number of reduced incidents or injuries

  • all employees are eligible to obtain incentive rewards and

  • the incentives are to be meaningful

Giving workers the ability to work safely (training programs), the motivation (positive feedback) and the opportunity (supportive environment) is an excellent model for achievable safety behaviour.


1.  Kelloway, K.E.  and  Francis, L.  Management of Occupational Health and Safety.  Fourth Edition.  Nelson Education Ltd., 2008.

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