- Remote site
- Dec 17 2014
Every 15 seconds, 160 workers experience a work-related accident. While many companies turn to incentive programs as the solution, programs that are specifically linked to safety in the offshore environment have faced heavy criticism from some organizations. The commonly held belief is that rewarding employees for lower incident rates not only puts the focus on the tangible reward rather than safety itself, but it can also cause increased dangers as it can encourage employees to underreport injuries in order to obtain their incentives.
So how can offshore companies successfully engage their employees and avoid these common pitfalls? Simon Seaton, COO Remote Sites Western Region has put a subtle – yet highly effective – twist on the traditional incentive program: incentivize people to actively participate in safety education and they will, in turn, change their behavior. Between 2013 and 2014, Seaton has seen incident rates on the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico where Sodexo operates fall from 0.96, per 100 workers per year, to zero**.
“While safety in the offshore industry in general has improved significantly in the past 10 years, most data still indicates that a large part of incidents that occur across the industry happen due to what we call the ‘human factor,’” says Seaton. This refers to the fact that no matter how safe an environment is, people can always make it less safe when they choose not to wear protective gear, when they choose not to follow the rules or when they choose to take a shortcut and skip a required step.
Sodexo’s incentive program, instituted in 2013, addresses this human factor. While traditional programs often reward employees when a worksite has reached a certain number of days without incident, Seaton’s program provides cash rewards to employees who participate in learning activities and adopt safe practices.
Participating employees can educate their peers on why specific incidents occur and how these events can be avoided by teaching safety courses. “The idea is that encouraging people to proactively contribute to their own safety knowledge improves overall safety and ultimately improves the incident rate as well. We are incentivizing learning and not results,” says Seaton.
Employees can also audit the work environment and identify various hazards and risks around the worksite. Whether it’s an area where unpacked boxes left in a hallway could cause an injury or stairwells that need extra handrails or a worn down staircase that has become slippery, once these potential risks are pointed out, management can take the necessary steps to eliminate the danger.
“A zero incident rate will occur when people really, truly believe that they can make a difference. When they believe that their voice is important and that the management truly cares about their wellbeing,” says Seaton.
While the incentive program in the Gulf of Mexico has been wildly successful, with plans to rollout to other regions in the near future, Seaton is convinced that sustaining the incident-free streak requires constant innovation. Looking ahead, Seaton envisions a program that will allow employees to choose their own rewards, instead of receiving cash bonuses.
“I don’t believe there is a single right way to do this,” he says. “Over time, people will get used to whatever is in place and we will come to a point when we need to stimulate and refresh our program. The newness is why it was so successful in the first place.”
*Safety and health at work, International Labour Organization
**Rates are factored per 100 employees working 200,000 hours per year.
With more than 313 million workers around the world injured on the job each year, the topic of workplace safety continues to gain traction*. Simon Seaton, COO Remote Sites Western Region, shares his solution to occupational accidents: a unique incentive program in the Gulf of Mexico that is already seeing impressive results.
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