Safety Awards, Rewards & Incentives for Building Strong Safety Culture

A safety incentive program that include safety awards, aka safety recognition and rewards program, encourages employees to adhere to safety standards and regulations in the workplace. These programs offer recognition (such as praise and formal awards) and rewards (like gift cards and company swag) to employees who demonstrate safe behavior, such as hazard reporting or actively participating in safety training. They’re designed to complement or enhance other workplace safety programs and initiatives such as safety awareness and training programs.

A safety incentive or recognition and rewards program helps build a positive safety culture in the workplace. They also encourage employees to work towards continuous improvement of health and safety in the workplace. The best safety incentive programs are carefully planned to support company safety goals and objectives. However, they should be about more than just reducing incident rates.

According to OSHA, safety incentive programs should be carefully designed not to encourage underreporting. The most effective safety incentive programs are based on leading indicators rather than lagging indicators. Safety incentive programs based on leading indicators reward employees for safety-related behaviors and activities (such as taking steps to remedy unsafe situations or participating on a safety committee), rather than for results (e.g. zero incidents).

Both Recognition & Rewards are Key to an Effective Safety Incentive Program

safety awards meaningful employee recognition

The best safety incentive programs provide both recognition and tangible non-monetary rewards. Both recognition and rewards help build enthusiasm among employees for proactive safety initiatives and reinforce positive safety behaviors.

Safety incentive programs typically utilize non-cash safety rewards or incentives, such branded apparel and extra time off. Monetary rewards like cash prizes are occasionally given out as well, though they are not considered to be the best motivator for employee behavior.

Recognition is also an important component of an effective safety incentive program. That’s why effective workplace safety programs also provide private or public recognition for employee or team safety practices, in the form of certificates and awards like safety plaques or trophies, public acknowledgment via social media or industry press, or praise from management at a department or company-wide meeting.

Safety Award Ideas

Many companies and government organizations give out quarterly or annual safety achievement awards to employees who meet or exceed safety standards. Popular safety awards include Safety Excellence Awards and Superior Safety Service Awards. Some formal awards for safety achievement or service involve a nomination process.

Recipients of formal safety awards often receive a framed certificate, plaque, or trophy. Employees may also be elected to a Safety Wall of Fame. They may also receive a small cash award (outside regular compensation) or non-monetary gift or reward.

Safety Incentives & Rewards They’ll Love

Rewards-based initiatives that promote strong safety culture need great prizes and incentives!

Some highly motivating safety incentives and rewards for employees include:

Branded Performance Wear, Outerwear & Gear

Fleece vests and jackets, polo shirts, and outdoor gear like cooler bags and camping chairs are excellent employee safety incentives. They can easily be customized with your company logo and colors. They’re also widely appealing, quality rewards to include in an online company store or catalog.

Safety Bucks

A Safety Bucks program is a points-based incentive program used by many manufacturing, industrial, and transportation companies. Employees are given points or cash vouchers (aka “bucks”) for completing safety-related tasks or activities, such as reporting potential hazards or properly wearing PPE. These points can then be redeemed for rewards or prizes, such as gift cards or branded merchandise. An online company store makes it easy for employees to redeem Safety Bucks or points.

Safety Bucks programs are popular with safety managers because they make it easy to provide on-the-spot awards for positive safety behaviors.

Extra Time Off

Simple rewards like additional break time or extra PTO are highly motivating incentives for most workers.

Safety Swag

Safety-related company swag like branded high visibility hats and roadside emergency kits help keep workers safe and promote a culture of safety in the workplace.

For additional safety swag ideas, check out our guide to Safety Promotional Items & Gifts for Employees.

Gift Cards

Gift cards make excellent safety incentives. Popular gift cards for employees include auto and fuel gift cards, restaurant and coffee shop gift cards, grocery gift cards, and retail gift cards.

Experiential Rewards

Experiential rewards provide employees with exciting experiences that create lasting memories. Experiential rewards include tickets to concerts, amusement parks, and sporting events.

Are Safety Awards & Incentives Taxable?

Safety Awards Taxable

Cash awards to employees are always taxable. And, in general, the value of an award or prize given by an employer is taxable to an employee as wages. However, non-cash safety awards may be exempt from taxation under certain circumstances.

According to the IRS, “Special rules apply to allow exclusion from employee wages of certain employee achievement awards of tangible personal property given for length of service or safety.” Safety achievement awards must be awarded as part of a meaningful presentation and cannot be disguised wages. These awards cannot be cash or cash equivalent (including gift certificates and gift cards), vacation, meals, lodging, theater or sports tickets or securities.

Additional requirements specific to achievement and safety awards must be met. According to The Balance, as of 2022, “Safety awards, to qualify as non-taxable, (a) cannot be given to more than 10% of the employees, and (b) can’t be given to managers, administrators, clerical employees, or other professional employees.”

There are also dollar limitations that must be met, which are subject to change. Employers should always consult with a tax professional or refer to IRS Publication 5137 or Publication 535 for the most up-to-date information.

Promote Positive Safety Behaviors with Incentivizing Awards & Rewards

The best safety incentive programs are carefully planned to avoid underreporting and build a culture of safety in the workplace. They also feature both recognition (such as praise from management and formal safety awards) and rewards (like safety bucks and safety-related swag).

For assistance with selecting the best safety awards and rewards for your business, contact Metron Branding or fill out the form below.