Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Safety first

November 17, 2010
Editor's Note: This article first appeared in the May 2010 issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing magazine. If you would like to submit a topic idea or article for the weekly Technical or Management Tip, please e-mail Editor Kate Carr.
In early February, SONNY’S The Car Wash Factory, a manufacturer and supplier of equipment, parts and supplies, announced it had reached a safety milestone. Warehouse employees reported zero work-related injuries that resulted in the loss of a full day of work after 500 straight work days.

Hitting the milestone
How did the company increase its safe operating days by more than eightfold? By creating a program that engaged staff and increased their awareness of safety in the workplace. SONNY’S posted signs and held special meetings, and rewarded employees with pizza and special T-shirts after they reached the milestone of 500 days.

“When an employee is injured and loses time, he is also losing income which affects his entire family,” stated Cliff Tash, vice president of production and logistics for SONNY’S. “Work accidents hurt morale and disrupt efficiency. By focusing on safety, we’re able to deliver a higher quality product at a lower cost.”

The company even held a raffle where employees could earn tickets for correctly answering safety related questions. The tickets were then used to win various prizes.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that SONNY’S has stumbled across a winning formula. Recognizing that its previous safety record (a measly 62 days) was severely limiting the company’s potential, they set out to address the problem at its root; with the employees. Your business can take these same tactics and mold them to your operations to encourage safety, reduce workers’ comp claims and boost company morale.

Incentives as motivational tools
Some operators might worry that using an incentive program rewards employees for doing what they’re already “supposed to be doing.” But that’s not so, according to Pat Tracy of Safety Jackpot, a business specializing in safety incentive programs.

“It’s more than just a carrot,” Tracy explained. “There’s a whole campaign that goes along with the program.”

The Lenexa, KS-based company has been involved in the incentive business for close to 60 years (as Peavey Performance Systems), but started its branch based on safety incentives about 20 years ago when they noticed a rise in workers’ comp costs and premiums. “Those premiums were putting a lot of small businesses out of business,” Tracy said.

The company launched Safety Jackpot, a scratch-off game card based incentive program, to combat those issues and Tracy said it has turned out to be their most successful incentive program.

How it works
In the Safety Jackpot program, employees are offered scratch-off cards for various reasons. The program works best when tied to proactive and behavior-based objectives, Tracy said, instead of reactive conditions. For instance, a worker might earn a card each week for being in compliance with all safety policies. That same worker might be given an additional card for suggesting a safety initiative that could be implemented.

The program is tailored to the company’s specific goals and expectations, but Tracy stated some other ways in which staff could earn cards might be:

  • Having a successful safety audit;
  • Attending a training program;
  • Reporting a “near miss” incident; and/or
  • Going above and beyond in the area of safety.

Tracy also suggested that companies which reward attendance find their safety records improve as a result. “Attendance and safety go hand in hand,” Tracy explained. “If you have an issue with a high number of call-ins, the work still needs to get done. But if someone comes in on their day off, if they work a double shift or if you work shorthanded, the risk of having a safety incident increases under those conditions. That’s when accidents are going to happen.”

Points and rewards
Each card offers the employee a chance to earn points to be used toward merchandise from the Safety Jackpot catalogue. Every card is a winner, and offers the worker two ways in which to stack points. The top half of the card has points in value from 25-100. The bottom half has one of the letters that make up the word “jackpot.” Once the employee collects all the letters needed to spell “jackpot,” she earns an additional 1,000 points. These are the points that are used to ‘purchase’ merchandise from the Safety Jackpot catalogue.

Not only that, but employees who spell out “jackpot” are also entered into a nationwide drawing for large cash prize drawings. These drawings are conducted quarterly.

Tailoring the program
Tracy said his company has created programs for nearly every industry, from health care to manufacturing and distribution. “An incentive program has to be designed properly,” Tracy cautioned.
“We encourage our clients to make the criteria specific to the different positions within the business,” Tracy said.

Really, the success of the program boils down to five key components, Tracy said. They are:

  • Use more than just the carrot (create a campaign around the program);
  • Reward frequently (Tracy recommended weekly at minimum);
  • Use merchandise and cash prizes for rewards;
  • Promote the program; and
  • Take “luck” out of the equation (don’t just hold a drawing, but award everyone across the board).

With these elements in place, Tracy’s company has helped businesses to reduce injuries by close to 62 percent, according to testimonials from clients over the years. The program is an investment of about $100-$150 per employee each year, Tracy said, but can be tailored according to a business’s budget.

“I think overall an incentive program… is helping to reduce accidents, but what you might not expect, is that it’s going to increase awareness and the conversation that the program starts within the company,” Tracy said. “Right now there’s a big push from OSHA to go after companies who under-report accidents and injuries, and those situations often arise when an incentive program is in place that encourages employees not to report an incident. Safety Jackpot ensures that everyone is a winner by rewarding employees for a series of safety goals.”