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Games, Gimmicks and Giveaways

Dan Peterson’s 10 Basic Principles of Safety, Principle #3

An employee safety bulletin board caught my eye recently. More specifically, it was the bingo card that stood out in the middle of the board. When I asked the operation’s manager about it, he gushed at how they use bingo to manage safety. Dan Peterson’s 10 Basic Principles of Safety came to mind. In particular Principle #3 which states that safety should be managed like any other aspect of the business. Yet, sometimes we feel it necessary to use games, gimmicks and giveaways to keep the front line employees attention as if they might wander off somewhere, or maybe as a bribe to ensure they follow procedures.

There are some problems with this approach. For starters, it reduces safety to a game of chance, something we try to avoid when it comes to employee safety. Second, when the giveaways go away, and they usually do at some point, you end up with a team of disappointed employees because they are used to the giveaways. Last, if games, giveaways and gimmicks were such good management tools, then why aren’t they used in other business functions. Can you imagine the Finance department determining your budget for next year based on a game of bingo? Or the Director of Human Resources determining the score on your annual evaluation based on bingo. Of course not. I’m not saying safety can’t be fun. I am saying, we should start with sound management principles; establishing and tracking goals, setting expectations and holding managers and supervisors accountable.

If you are not familiar with Dan Peterson and his 10 Basic Principles of Safety, check out one of his books; Techniques of Safety Management and Safety Management: A Human Approach. Both are excellent books on safety management that I have used for many years.

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