How To Gamify Safety To Build A Better Safety Culture

Tom Whitaker is the Founder & CEO of Harness Software. He is passionate about the convergence of construction and technology. Particularly when it comes to safety on the job site. Tom is a father of three boys and lives near Toronto, Canada.

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How to...

Last Updated
Feb 11, 2021

 

For the majority of construction companies, finding and keeping qualified workers is a huge challenge. As we’ve discussed before, building a culture of safety is one way to help with recruitment and retention.

Short attention spans and complacency are both problems that safety directors everywhere want to overcome. In this article, we’re going to look specifically at the theory of “gamification” and how it can help you keep workers better engaged in your safety program so you see better results.

What is Gamification?

Simply put, gamification is the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts. Gamification techniques are intended to leverage people’s natural desires for socializing, learning, mastery, competition, achievement, status, and self-expression. It’s science!

Many of us grew up playing video games. Remember that feeling you had when you beat the boss of a level, achieved the high score, or unlocked a new power or weapon for your character? That’s what gamification is all about—creating that feeling.

Most of us want to feel like we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves. Gamification can tap into that desire by creating a “team” element to safety. Since construction is still dominated by men, it’s also worth noting that gamification can awaken the competitive instincts that they often display on the playing field in sports. Not that women also do not possess these instincts. My wife loves to win at poker and often does.

Gamification unlocks traits that humans have been developing for millennia. It turns your safety program into something fun. When something is fun, it’s more engaging and workers are likely to spend more time focusing their attention on it.

What are the Elements of Gamification?

Games use a set of standard building blocks to create the game conditions. Those blocks include:

  1. Points
    • Usually provided as a reward for completing certain activities or goals.
  2. Badges
    • A visual representation of achievement. Analogous to medals, trophies, ribbons, etc.
  3. Leaderboards
    • Leaderboards rank players according to their relative success, measuring them against a certain success criterion.
  4. Performance Graphs
    • Often used alongside leaderboards, instead of ranking a players performance, graphs are mainly used to compare a players performance in a visual way.
  5. Creating Teammates
    • Introducing teams to any game promotes cooperation amongst players as they need to work together towards a common goal.

How To Incorporate Gamification Into Your Construction Safety Program

If you want to start building a better culture of safety, there are easy ways to use gamification to your advantage:

1. Implement A Points System

Reward workers with Safety Points that can be redeemed for company merchandise, tools, gifts, etc…

Points are a great way to start gamifying your safety program and getting the competitive juices flowing.

A couple of key “points” to remember about points programs:

  • Award points based on behavior. Not results. Safety is a process. Reward things like completing additional safety training, conducting safety planning activities regularly, or conducting inspections. DO NOT reward workers if their job sites are injury/incident free. This could discourage workers from reporting unsafe conditions or injuries and run your company afoul with OSHA.
  • Make the points scheme easy to understand and allow for workers to earn a decent reward for “expected” behavior and excellent rewards for “excellent” behavior. For example, a worker that completes all his assigned training, might earn a $25 company store credit at the end of the year, but a worker that goes above and beyond might earn a new set of tools worth $100 or more.
  • Include the point values when assigning tasks to reinforce their value and celebrate purchases that workers make with them. You might even award arbitrary points to workers throughout the year if you notice something special about their commitment to safety.

2. Make Top Performers In Your Company Into Status Symbols

As we discussed above, badges trophies, certificates, & ribbons create a sense of achievement in the recipient. They also can create a strong competitive drive in others that want to achieve the same level of recognition.

The Tour de France uses a yellow jersey to indicate the race leader during its various stages. You could do something similar with your company uniforms by designating certain colors for top performers or issuing higher quality company-branded apparel only for those that achieve certain safety objectives.
Another idea would be to use hardhat stickers or some other type of tag to make your safety leaders stand out and encourage others to join them as status symbols.

3. Performance & Leaderboard Screens

Apple, one of the most successful companies ever, installs TV screens in the employee-only areas of their stores to show real time sales results in comparison with other stores nearby. This leads to healthy competition between stores and a healthier bottom line for the Mac and iPhone maker.
You can use the same technique when it comes to safety. Install a screen in your company training area, break room, or another gathering point. Use it to show your current safety points leaders, or the most recent safety observation stats from an inspection app like Harness.

Harness uses a combination of a leaderboard to track personnel compliance and graphs to track overall safety performance. This can be displayed on any sized screen.

4. Create Cooperation AND Competition

Gamification, when used properly, shouldn’t turn every worker into mortal enemies vying for those all important safety points. Your program should be structured to foster cooperation as well as a health competition. Here are a couple of ways to accomplish this:

    • Establish both individual & team goals

A person should be able to stand out within the team but really make team performance the ultimate goal. Establish criteria for the team to earn points together and reward members equally for reaching those goals.

  • Allow workers to “gift” points or request points to gifted to people they see doing the right things.

Allowing workers to their co-workers kudos via the points system is an excellent way to foster cooperation.

Gamification For Safety Works

Hopefully by now you understand more about gamification and how to incorporate it into your safety program. Doing it right will lead to more engaged, safer workers, less incidents, increased retention, and a better bottom line.

Harness-Centered

Want to find out how Harness can help you gamify your safety program?

One of the things that makes gamification easy is a modern safety management system like Harness, but you can certainly implement any of these ideas without technology. Get started today and you will see results in no time!

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