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Improving Bus Transit Safety Through Rewards and Discipline (2012)

Chapter: Chapter Two - Literature Review

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Literature Review." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. Improving Bus Transit Safety Through Rewards and Discipline. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14651.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Two - Literature Review." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2012. Improving Bus Transit Safety Through Rewards and Discipline. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/14651.
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6 chapter two Literature revieW This chapter summarizes the findings from the literature review of reports and documents that address the connec- tion between reward programs and employee safety perfor- mance, as well as the effectiveness of reward and discipline programs in transit organizations. A literature review of the topic identified one study that establishes a “definite link” between a transit behavioral intervention program and a reduction in the rate, severity, and cost of accidents. Additionally, a number of studies tangential to transit also appear to establish a connection between “consequence management” programs and prac- tices (i.e., involving the systematic application of reward and discipline) and performance. Component elements linked to the success of these pro- grams and practices generally include incentives, train- ing, goal-setting, feedback, positive reinforcement, teams, behavioral intervention, management support, organiza- tional culture, employee awareness, and accountability. Each element is designed in some way to influence both the skill level and subsequent motivation of the employee to actively apply those skills. Noticeably lacking are published studies that isolate and equate disciplinary action with individual or organizational improvement. Feyer and Williamson (1998) noted that “incentives must be distinguished from unexpected rewards. Incentive programs differ from safety engineering and safety education by attempt- ing to strengthen the motivation to be safe.” Their suggestion was that expected rewards would tend to motivate safety behaviors in a way that unexpected rewards, system engineer- ing, and training would not. Therefore, the use of rewards as an incentive would necessitate that the reward be defined in advance, publicized, and tied directly to performance. Mejza et al. (2003) concluded that evidence exists linking reinforcement action to transportation safety outcomes. They cite Geller (1998) as concluding, “Reinforcement activity is characterized by antecedent events (incentives and dis- incentives) and/or consequent events (rewards and penalties) that can be used in combination to support specific behavior intervention strategies.” McAfee and Winn (1989) reviewed 24 studies of those programs that have used positive reinforcement and feedback to enhance safety. They concluded that all studies found that incentives or feedback were successful, to some degree, in improving safety conditions or accident reduction. Chhokar and Wallin (1984) confirmed the applicability of a behavioral approach to safety as part of a more comprehensive approach that included training, goal-setting, and feedback. One published study by Beaudry et al. (2006) examined the effects of an incentive program at a small, non-profit tran- sit agency on driver performance, including at-fault accidents. The study concluded that incentives resulted in improved driver performance at a private, nonprofit agency. Guzzo and Dickson (1996) promote the idea that the utiliza- tion of a team approach is effective in enhancing the safety per- formance of both the individual and the team in general. Teams, by design, incorporate motivational elements of peer pressure within the team and an element of competition between teams if results are shared. Miozza and Wyld (2002) reaffirmed a standing belief that the success of both behavior-based and incentive-based pro- grams correlate to the degree of support from upper manage- ment. Cooke and Rohleder (2006) provided a model whereby managers are shown to be motivated to move the safety perfor- mance of employees from normal to high reliability through the use of a safety incident learning system. Dilley and Kleiner (1966) expanded their study beyond management support and link the organization culture to main- taining safety, including employee awareness and accountabil- ity. The study even linked employee driving safety behavior to the individual’s perception of the fleet manager’s safety attitude. Short (2007) cites Uttal (1983) relating organizational cul- ture and, intuitively, its relationship to safety as “shared values (what is important) and beliefs (how things work) that interact with an organization’s structure and control systems to pro- duce behavioral norms (the way we do things around here).” However, Clarke (2000) noted that “academic discussions in this area suggest that the concept remains vague, lacks empiri- cal validation and is used as an ‘umbrella term’ for all social and organizational factors that affect accident rate.” A connection between employee safety performance and reward programs appears to exist, substantially influenced by the safety culture of the organization, including manage-

7 ment’s perception of safety. However, the effectiveness of the reward/disciplinary program or practice is difficult, if not impossible, to measure because systematic or on-going programs in general have no control group or baseline with which to compare results. Although disciplinary programs in transit organizations tend to be more commonplace than reward programs (in part because the organizations may face liability issues if they do not establish a disciplinary proce- dure), current studies that draw conclusions as to their effec- tiveness in improving transit safety appear to be nonexistent. transit incentive Program context TCRP Synthesis 3: Incentive Programs to Improve Transit Employee Performance (Hartman et al. 1994) examined the concept of linking employee compensation or recognition to specific accomplishments in the public transit industry. For the purpose of the synthesis, incentive programs were con- sidered to be those that provide a one-time cash payment, gift, or recognition for a particular job. The report detailed that the structure of the incentive pro- grams reviewed generally included: • The definition of the accomplishment to be recognized • The population eligible for recognition • The period of time over which the performance will be rewarded • Provisions for measuring and evaluating accomplishments • The program budget • The mechanism to review the program effectiveness. The synthesis report highlighted some of the challenges that incentive programs in the public sector encountered in contrast to private sector programs. These challenges included: • The public sector programs’ shortage of profits, which are typically used to both measure the program and fund the private sector incentive programs • The public sector’s need to be accountable to the tax- payers, making it difficult to justify the “extra pay” • The public sector’s tendency not to differentiate among employees • The difficulty of data collection to measure and justify the incentive • The difficulty in defining performance measures that are objective and within the employee control • The acceptability of the incentive rewards in the con- text of collective bargaining agreements. Among the report’s conclusions were that the incentive pro- grams tended to operate in isolation, received mixed reviews, most commonly dealt with safety and absenteeism, and had limited documentation of program results. other industries and incentives Similar observations were made in other industry examples where incentives are part of an organizational attempt to insti- tutionalize motivation toward safe behaviors. Prichard notes that “the effect of rewards on motivation and performance is a well-studied subject in both management and safety litera- ture. A majority of U.S. businesses use some sort of safety incentive, and most safety professionals believe that they are an important element in any safety and health program.” For example, “Even research of best practices within the Con- struction Industry (conducted by the Construction Industry Institute) indicate that the inclusion of incentive programs among the top ten practices was based on popularity of use, not on demonstrated effectiveness” primarily because “most programs have not been formally evaluated, examined or measured. Effectiveness . . . is generally based on anecdotal evidence.”

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 97: Improving Bus Transit Safety Through Rewards and Discipline addresses the practices and experiences of public transit agencies in applying both corrective actions and rewards to recognize, motivate, and reinforce a safety culture within their organizations.

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