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Safety Recognition

Ask the Expert: Using Monetary Incentives in Behavior-Based Safety

“Why shouldn’t we use gift cards to reward people for doing observations and feedback?”

by Grainne Matthews, Ph.D.

The short answer is because cash-equivalent rewards are valuable enough to motivate the wrong behavior—the behavior of “pencil-whipping” a checklist. Pencil-whipping can be as bad as photocopying a bunch of checklists to submit or inventing an observation while sitting in the cafeteria at lunch. Pencil-whipping also includes situations where an observer does actually conduct an observation but puts very little effort into thoughtfully considering how safe the observed person is working, sincerely appreciating the safe behaviors, or having a meaningful discussion of potential improvements.

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