National Academies Press: OpenBook

Improving Bus Transit Safety Through Rewards and Discipline (2012)

Chapter: Chapter Five - Conclusions

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Five - Conclusions." 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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Page 40
Page 41
Suggested Citation:"Chapter Five - Conclusions." 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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Page 41

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41 chapter five ConClusions This chapter summarizes findings and presents conclusions from this synthesis project, and offers suggestions for future study. A literature review, surveys, and case studies provide an assessment of factors contributing to successful transit opera- tor safety programs, with specific emphasis on discipline and reward programs. ConClusions Every transit agency in the study emphasized the importance of safety in its mission and in its operations; however, dif- ferences between agency approaches to safety were obvious in the various methods and level of agency commitment for accomplishing safety goals. One constant was the presence of a disciplinary code for safety-related matters. All were progressive in nature with exceptions only for the most serious of safety-related offenses. However, evaluating the effectiveness of discipline as a method for improving safety was difficult for a number of reasons, the most notable being the absence of a control group (i.e., an agency that does not have a disciplinary code). Because dis- ciplinary policies are rarely changed, a pre-/post-evaluation of the effectiveness of the change is difficult. Based on the information in the literature review, the sur- vey, and the case examples, it appears that regardless of the industry, safety incentive programs can be successful when used in conjunction with an existing safety program. An effective incentive program encourages employees to exceed the requirements of the safety management program. These programs raise awareness of the organization’s commitment to safety by engaging and educate employees, encouraging positive behavior change, and rewarding and recognizing employees for contributing to a safe work environment. Transit agencies have used a variety of employee safety reward programs in conjunction with corrective action to recognize, motivate, and reinforce organizational safety culture. Based on the findings, it is evident that agencies that incorporate safety reward programs find the programs to be effective tools to improve employee morale, encour- age employees to work safely, and improve the employee– employer relationship. These affirmative approaches to safety management, along with consistent discipline programs, have been reported by respondents to be model programs. Unfortunately, because of decreasing budgets and increasing operating costs, many transit systems are unable to implement or maintain operator reward programs. As only a few of the agencies who participated in this study have active employee health and wellness programs, addi- tional research could be conducted on the need for workplace wellness programs, as well as the benefits of such programs. Although there is no empirical data related to the transit indus- try, the agencies that have comprehensive employee health and wellness programs reported increased morale, reduced turnover, and lowered absenteeism. A number of agencies reported success, some measured, with reward or incentive programs. A variety of program ele- ments were mentioned, including group awards, individual awards, goal-setting, competition, public display of perfor- mance, short- and long-term awards, recognition, and spon- sored social functions. Also included in the survey findings was the successful use of incentives when an agency used a contracted service provider. In these cases, actual performance was measured against performance standards and was used to trigger penalties or incentive payments though the contractor. The study does not draw conclusions on the effectiveness of disciplinary programs on improving transit safety. It does provide some evidence that those participating agencies that recently implemented some form of safety award or incentive program have met with some degree of success. No conclu- sion can be drawn between any measure of success and indi- vidual reward program elements. However, it is important to note that a common theme among the successful award pro- grams is that they were “recent” interventions. This could indi- cate that a shift in routine focus through the introduction of a new program might in itself result in participants paying more attention to program goals. suggestions for future researCh This report suggests that additional research might be under- taken to measure the effectiveness and benefits of employee incentive programs and to identify the best industry-specific disciplinary practices. Potential areas for research include: • A scientifically controlled study to evaluate the effec- tiveness of rewards/incentives in reducing accidents.

42 Although research collected during this project sug- gests that such programs, developed and incorporated with the buy-in of the employer, employee, and union can work effectively, additional research might be con- ducted on a larger sample size to provide quantifiable safety data. • Research directed toward the development of a standard- ized, participatory process for implementing program or policy changes to improve safety. Such a study might focus on what employee input and participation are necessary to develop successful and effective reward/ incentive programs. • Research on the opportunities for public transit agen- cies contracting with service providers to use rewards and penalties within the contract structure to improve safety and overall performance. • Additional research to evaluate the impact of a workplace wellness program on organizational safety and how it relates to employee absenteeism, health care costs, work- related injuries, employee morale, and retention. • Research conducted to identify successful practices of developing and enhancing the safety culture of tran- sit agencies, expanding the focus to all aspects of the organization and not just bus operators.

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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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