Safety Scratch Offs

starperk safety scratchoff

Easy-to-implement program where you distribute scratch off cards worth points toward trips and prizes. Learn More


Online Points Program


Customize your own points program and give employees the ability to redeem points online. Add it as an overlay to any BBS or safety program.

Throwing Out the Bath Water; Keeping the Baby!

Given the potential for under-reporting and the other negative effects associated with payment schemes based on outcome measures and the lack of evidence of value from them, we recommend that such schemes should not be used in the industry.” This conclusion stated in the Digging Deeper Report regarding mine safety for the New South Wales (NSW) Mine Safety Advisory Council (MSAC), in Australia, at first glance may indicate that safety incentive programs have received a bad grade, but not so! On the contrary, the extensively researched report, that examined all sectors of the NSW mining industry, recommends the primary components of a behavior-based safety incentive process: worker participation in setting goals, management involvement, and recognition of safe behaviors that lead to safe results.

I'm Confused . . .

Monday, November 9, 2009

I'm confused . . .

Recently I was greatly honored to be asked to do a keynote speech at the Behavioral Safety Now (BSN) conference (

"Who, me?" I asked.

Most of you know that the folks at BSN have pretty much set the gold standard in behavior based safety (BBS) thought leadership for some time. In fact, I learned when I got there, that I was the only non-PhD keynote speaker ever in 17 years!

So what could a guy like me bring to the party that hasn't been discussed already?

Now, my usual morning routine is to push a 100-pound dumbbell up into the air (one per arm) while listening to Bon Jovi at a level which usually gets my wife pretty mad, although my dog Elvis seems to like it.

Lately, my wife's been pretty happy, since I've decided to forego my favorite music in favor of listening to my collection of past presentations from the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), the National Safety Council (NSC), BSN, and the like.

It's taken a lot of self discipline to go from working out with Bon Jovi to pumpin’ iron with BBS consultants, but I am glad I've done it.

And, having sifted through the absolute BEST and WORST speakers of these conferences, I have become . . .


Here's why:


I heard a BBS consultant do a presentation on the role of steering committees in BBS. I was eager to learn more!

The gentleman started with a few introductory comments saying, "I have absolutely no research to back up what I'm about to say; it's my opinion."

(Immediately, red warning lights flashed through my brain! I almost dropped the 100-pound dumbbell on my head but caught it in the nick of time.)

So, ok, I'm about to hear some consultant give me an opinion without any research to back it up. This should be fun, I thought.

The consultant went on to offer his advice:

1) "I tell all my Steering Committees you should meet weekly to decide who to positively reinforce or ‘R+’ in behaviorist lingo."

Good, weekly is sure better than monthly recognition, I thought.

2)  "You should go out and find a person who has done an observation and recognize them in front of their peers."

Huh? I thought that public recognition can backfire, since some people are afraid that their peers will perceive them as the teacher's pet. From what I've read, you never publicly praise a person in front of others without  asking that person's permission in advance.

3) "You should know your employees, and know what's really reinforcing to them. So, you need to learn as a manager what each person likes and find something you can say that links to that. For example, if they like bonsai trees, you should find an article about bonsai trees and give it to them and tell them you thought they'd like it."

Now, maybe you know a lot of guys who like to grow bonsai trees but I don't. And if I ever do take up bonsai growing, I'd probably like a bonsai tree more than an article about one. Plus, while it's important to know what people like and are interested in, it's also important to let them choose what's positively reinforcing to them.

4) "You should celebrate improvements in the process monthly, but never do the same kind of celebration twice in the same year . . . and oh yes, never, ever give people tangible award gifts. Mix up your celebrations; do pizza this month and watermelon the next. That's the key."

Hey, last time I checked, pizza and watermelon ARE TANGIBLE . . . unless someone has invented anti-matter pizza. While there is a place for company picnics and they have some value, one safety director lamented the fact that "We feed them for being safe and the next minute we tell them to lose some weight in our new wellness program."

5) “Celebrations should be linked to contingencies. Don't throw a ‘safety party,’ but be specific about what your team did, and why we're celebrating.”

Now I like this one! The whole idea of pinpointing a behavior or result and then celebrating as a team how we improved performance is a powerful concept.

6) “It's wrong to focus on gifts and awards; you lose the personal touch. You shouldn't give the same gifts to people, but if you do, make sure they have a logo on them.”

"Ahh, earth to consultant, the latest research of Fortune 100 managers puts logo gifts as the least effective motivator of all. Bill Sims research shows that over 90 percent of us have received a logo gift we didn't want, need, or use. Conclusion: most logo gifts become throwaway items in a landfill.

7) “500 coffee mugs isn't R+ for anyone.”

I totally agree, but you have contradicted your earlier statement, where you suggest that giving everyone watermelon or  pizza is a positive reinforcer. If we can't make 500 people happy with a coffee mug then logic says we can't do it with 500 pieces of pizza. Plus, I just started my new Dr. Atkins high-protein diet!

8) “Make the recognition cost as little as you can. When you budget for recognition, less is better.”

Hold on here a minute! If you do that, will you be giving people a pepperoni pizza minus the pepperoni and cheese? Now, that is positively punishing in my book. Instead I say walk softly and carry a big P.I.C.—no pun intended Aubrey :) National research shows $100 to $200 per employee for the year is the norm for recognition and the numbers are climbing steadily.

9) “Assume everyone will be at 100 percent participation.”

This is a classic beginner's mistake. In this scenario, the beginner takes his or her tiny $25 budget and assumes a worst case scenario that all employees will participate, and so they make the reinforcer  an "itsy bitsy, teeny weeny" whatever. In fact, it's hard to get 100 percent of people to do anything. Studies show that 40 percent of all employees do not cash in their Wal-Mart, Visa, and American Express gift cards. So, by planning that 100 percent of the people will participate, you actually shoot yourself in the foot. Instead, make the R+ bigger  and you'll get more people to engage.

10) “You should reserve 10 percent of your budget for individual recognition and 90 percent for monthly group celebrations.

This one flies in the face of all logic and reason. First, of all, we know that the most powerful R+ is that  which is linked to the behavior within 15 seconds. That means we need to reinforce INDIVIDUALS and NOT GROUPS. Group reinforcement, while creating powerful peer pressure, may be positive, but it certainly is NOT IMMEDIATE and, by George, it is UNCERTAIN. In Aubrey's book and in mine PIC blows the doors off PIU's  hands down.
Maybe you are as confused now as I was. There sure seems to be a lot of confusion on the part of companies who have implemented BBS over the last 15 years. Some of it is absolutely hilarious. For example, a company was interviewing BBS consultants in their selection process. One PhD was asked, "How many failures have you had?"

He replied,  "We don't know. We don't follow up with our clients after we train them in our process."

To prepare for my BSN keynote I conducted a survey of companies to see how their BBS processes are going. You can get a copy of that survey along with a link to one of my presentations free of charge by going to this link:

In a future blog, I'll give you my analysis of the BBS survey data. But the bottom line is this:

Lots of  today's mature BBS processes are STUCK. People go through the motions, collecting data, with the pencil whipping and negative or non-existent R+. We need to help these companies build a culture, as my good friend Bob Veazie says. We've done that for many companies, helping them fix broken BBS systems. In my next blog, I'll share more thoughts on how to do it.

In the meantime, if you're doing your workout, I suggest you join me and Elvis as we listen to Bon Jovi. At least you won't be . . . confused.


Greenbeans and Ice cream feedback

I wanted to add some factual evidence to your story about the positive reinforcement that went on in the company you spoke about where the man reached into a moving machine over a safety sign that said do not reach into moving equipment and his arm was caught and his manager called him dumb--yet his negative behavior was being supported through productivity goals.

This exact thing happened at my last job and was one of the reasons I quit. I worked for a manufacturer and was hired because of my safety background, was appointed as the safety meeting leader and was in charge of work comp and other HR and payroll. I did make a small difference in the way the safety meetings were designed, but that was about it. I changed the format a little as a first step.


We had two reportable accidents in the year I was there. The one that pertains here is where a male supervisor who had been with the company probably over 10 years stuck his hand into a moving machine to add a piece of tape to a board that was being routed, his little finger was nearly cut off--he had surgery and was expected to return to work. My take on this was that he had done this many, many times although there is a sign on the machine that states not to do that...I think he was comfortable in sticking his hand in the machine, but this last time he was caught. Production was important and productivity curves were posted in the lunchroom every week, people were also being laid off due to the recession and common scenario, when the company struggles accidents increase, our company was text book on what you teach.

This accident was troubling, I would not wish that on anyone, but the most troubling aspect of this accident was that when the man was released to come back to work without restrictions, light duty was not offered, he was off for probably 12-14 weeks, I was told, as I did payroll, that he was going to be suspended for three days without pay for not following the safety rules because he was a supervisor and was paid a higher salary and knew better than to stick his hand in a moving machine. So, not only did he almost loose a finger, he was going to be further punished by the company for not following safety rules, when in fact as you say, management was allowing him to operate his equipment this way due to emphasis on productivity. I could not believe my ears when I heard he was going to be penalized without pay. You may use this story if you want to, I am no longer affiliated with that company.

Needless to say, this is one reason I chose to pursue different employment, I knew that company would never understand positive reinforcement, so I was impressed with what you said in your presentation that certain behaviors are reinforced when we actually do not want them to be.

Thank you,

(Name withheld upon request)
Workers' Compensation
& Safety Specialist


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