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Attaching Incentives to Safety KPI's Is Unhealthy

This week I've been discussing the challenge when organizations attach an incentive, such as a monetary bonus, to safety-related KPI's.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for any program that reduces the number of incidents in the workplace.

What I'm against is the manipulation of data to protect the incentive.

So what exactly do I mean?

Example 1: There is a KPI in place to reduce the number of incidents in the workplace. Whilst in principle this is a great target to have, it can easily be manipulated so as incidents are not reported, or the reporting of incidents is discouraged either openly or covertly (Openly meaning that people are ridiculed or questioned for why they're reporting an incident. Covertly by sitting on reports, not doing anything about them or similar, so eventually staff stop reporting because they see no action is taken or value in doing so).

Example 2: As per above, however, I've seen organizations openly manipulate incidents so as a reported incident may be reclassified as a first-aid incident, not a medical treated incident (MTI) for example.

Example 3: There is a KPI to reduce the LTIFR for an organization, however when the KPI is not being met or is at risk, I've seen organizations suddenly decide to split out employees from sub-contractors in their reporting metrics, thus changing the LTIFR score.

Obviously, these are only a few examples that I've seen over my years working in the WHS space, however, I'm sure there are other examples that many have come across or witnessed (Comment below if you'd like to share!).

I don't know that there is a single answer to fix this issue as I think it will be different for every organization depending on where they're at in their WHS journey, though this week I have read a number of responses from others about this topic which has ranged from the scrapping of any safety-related KPI, changing the way KPI's are incentivized, through to better education of staff to understand the importance of achieving set metrics.

What I do know though is that unfortunately, ethics in safety can be a challenge for a few and when you can manipulate data to achieve a certain score/measure/KPI, you're on a slippery slope to the bottom.

Let me know your thoughts- comment below.

Interested in Knowing More?

Further information on Safety Wise’s Incident Cause Analysis (ICAM) Training is available from our website:

Additional ICAM Related Services

Safety Wise also offers the following additional services for sites that adopt the ICAM investigation analysis method:

  • Quality review of incident investigations using ICAM

  • Participation in investigations as an external/independent party

  • Investigation coaching


ABOUT THE AUTHOR- Luke Dam (Chief Executive Officer)

Luke has worked in various industries over the years including pharmaceutical, retail, manufacturing, and transport including iconic brands like WesFarmers, Goodyear, CSL Limited, and Incitec Pivot Limited.

His work in OHS and learning and development has seen him deliver services to clients, both internal and external as well as managing service delivery teams around the world.

Luke holds a Graduate Certificate of Management (Learning) as well as a Diploma of Occupational Health and Safety, a Diploma of Training and Assessment Systems, a Certificate IV Workplace Training and Assessment, a Certificate III in Mine Emergency Response & Rescue and a Certificate II in Public Safety (SES Rescue).

Luke is extensively involved in a project to establish an association dedicated to confined space safety and to drive change in legislation to promote best-practice in this high-risk area. Luke is passionate about online OHS and incident investigation communities, moderating a number of large LinkedIn groups boasting over 11,000 members globally.


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