Incentive or punishment? How to improve airside safety

Incentive or punishment? How to improve airside safety

For staff working in airports, safety is paramount. Airports, especially airside areas, are hazardous places and the consequences of poor safety can have a significant impact. When it comes to improving airside safety, is it better to incentivise or punish the workforce? Or adopt a different approach altogether?

Using incentives and rewards to improve safety

The Health and Safety Executive is an advocate for incentive and reward-based health and safety. Incentives, such as prizes for individuals or groups, monthly gift vouchers or a moral incentive scheme, where an organisation donates £1 to charity for each safe behaviour observed, can motivate staff to follow safety procedures, reward those who support a safety culture and help to reinforce specific safe behaviours.

Ideally, incentives and rewards wouldn’t be required – staff would follow safety precautions because safe practice is deeply embedded in an organisation’s safety culture. But that depends on the safety maturity of a workplace. If it’s only emerging, incentives and rewards can be a useful tool to realign the safety expectations of a workforce.

How should rewards for safety be used?

Rewards should always be used to recognise safe behaviour rather than the absence of non-safe behaviour. Consider if you need to reward staff for using the right Personal Protective Equipment to protect them against slips, trips, falls, chemicals and more. Management buy-in and visibility is an essential component of an effective incentive scheme too, for example, by being engaged in the process by being part of the communication of the programme or handing out the rewards.

The risks of incentive programmes

While an incentive and reward programme can have a positive impact on improving airside safety, there are downsides too. The risk of under-reported incidents and injuries to stay eligible for rewards shouldn’t be underestimated. Impacting safety culture by motivating staff by rewards, rather than a deep understanding of why safety is essential, can undermine safety efforts. A scheme should be implemented carefully – taking stock of the risks and aim to make all staff feel collectively responsible for airside safety.

What about punishments?

Punishments such as fines and dismissals have been shown to be ineffective at preventing unsafe behaviour. They can reinforce non-reporting and increase the risk of injury and accident. At the very least, they can simply encourage legal compliance, but not necessarily the pursuit of excellence. However, as the repercussions of unsafe behaviour in aviation can be significant, punishments may be considered in the following situations:

  • To stop undesirable behaviour
  • For mandatory non-compliance, rather than for discretionary safety
  • Where the action is willful, flagrant and repeated

Punishing workers who are serious about safety, but have made a genuine mistake, can be counterintuitive and perceived as punishing good intentions.

Which method is best?

Simply put, both reward schemes and punishments should be implemented with caution. If there’s a mature organisational safety culture, there may not be a requirement for either and other tactics can be considered. Excellent safety reporting standards and improving safety maturity should be where the emphasis is placed to create safe airside work environments.

Equipping all airside staff, permanent, temporary and contractors, with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is key to creating and maintaining a safe workplace. Contego Aviation Solutions stocks a vast range of protective clothing, PPE and corporate wear, including our own WEARMASTER® range. The friendly and expert team at Contego Aviation Solutions is always on hand to give advice and guidance on the right PPE and protective clothing for your needs. Contact us now on 0800 122 3323 or sales@contegoaviation.co.uk to discuss your requirements.

Contego Aviation Solutions is your one-stop manufacturer, supplier and distributor of safety clothing and PPE equipment for the aviation industry and more. Part of Contego Safety Solutions, Contego Aviation Solutions is the aviation industry protective clothing and equipment supplier that can offer it all.