The National Academies

NCHRP Synthesis 20-05/Topic 53-02 [Active (Synthesis)]

Practices to Motivate Safe Behaviors with Highway Construction and Maintenance Crews
[ NCHRP 20-05 (Synthesis of Information Related to Highway Practices) ]

  Project Data
Funds: $45,000
Authorization to Begin Work: 4/30/2021 -- estimated
Staff Responsibility: Jo Allen Gause
Research Agency: Blue Hardhat Consulting LLC
Principal Investigator: Gabe Dadi
Comments: Synthesis In Progress
Fiscal Year: 2022

Final Scope


Highway construction and maintenance is a uniquely hazardous industry. In 2019, OSHA incident data reported the recordable injury rate was 21% higher for highway construction and maintenance than general construction. Safety programs and policies have been created to seek improvement in safety performance. A common strategy to improve safety outcomes is the use of incentives and disincentives to motivate workers to perform safe behaviors. OSHA states that “incentive programs can be an important tool to promote workplace safety and health.” Examples of such incentive programs include rewarding workers for reporting near-misses or hazards and encourage the use of safety committees. Conversely, disincentive strategies can be used to discourage unsafe behaviors such as disciplinary actions for unsafe behaviors. Most safety incentive programs are either injury/illness/incident-based or behavior-based incentive programs. The former received some restrictions and clarification from OSHA stating that injury/illness/incident-based are allowable assuming there are no ramifications for reporting incidents. A recent study found that safety incentive programs have been effective at reducing experience modification ratings; lost-time workday incidents; and days away, job restrictions, or transfers. The same study also found that workers have a positive perception of safety incentive programs and believe they do improve safety outcomes.


The private construction sector has deployed incentive and disincentive programs with regularity. However, state departments of transportation (DOTs) have unique limitations on their ability to financially incentivize safe actions or use corrective actions to disincentivize unsafe actions. While difficult, some DOTs have found unique approaches to institute incentives, such as monetary awards, certificates, work crew awards, lunches, and more.


The objective of this synthesis is to document state DOT practice regarding safety incentive and disincentive programs for DOT highway construction and maintenance crews, related motivational techniques, and written policies or training to implement these programs.


Information to be gathered includes (but is not limited to):

·         Types of formal safety incentive or disincentive programs (i.e, structured, written DOT policy);

·         Types of informal safety incentive or disincentive programs (i.e., non-policy, non-metric driven);

·         Other safety motivational approaches (e.g., awareness, reminders, safety stand downs, safety training, safety accountability, leadership training);

·         Implementation strategies (e.g., formation of teams, communication plan, collective bargaining);

·         Program success and how success is measured (e.g., performance metrics, documented change in worker safety behavior);

·         Funding for incentive programs (e.g., sources, restrictions);

·         Manager and supervisor/foreman engagement (e.g., day-to-day participation and involvement, attending awards ceremonies, employee recognition);

·         Program training requirements (e.g., enforcement of safety practices, motivational skills for supervisors);

·         Written DOT program policies and procedures; and

·         Challenges for implementation (e.g., labor relations, funding).


Information will be collected through literature review, a survey of DOTs, and follow-up interviews with selected agencies for the development of case examples. Information gaps and suggestions for research to address those gaps will be identified.


Information Sources (Partial):

·         Al-Shabbani, Z., Ammar, A., Nassereddine, H., and Dadi, G.B. (2021). “Development, Implementation, and Tracking of Preventative Safety Metrics” Research Report KTC-21-10/SPR19-568. Kentucky Transportation Center, Lexington, KY.

·         “Employer Safety Incentive and Disincentive Policies and Practices.” United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/whistleblowermemo.html

·         Goodrum, P.M. and Gangwar, M. (2004). “Safety incentives: A study of their effectiveness in construction.” Professional Safety.

·         “Recommended Practices for Safety and Health Programs.” United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). https://www.osha.gov/shpguidelines/


Meeting Dates

First Panel: December 7, 2021, Virtual meeting

Teleconference with Consultant: January 4, 2022 from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST

Second Panel: September 14, 2022, Virtual meeting


Topic Panel

Anthony Courtwright, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

Theresa Drum, California Department of Transportation

Hilary Hackbart, Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Hunt Hutson, Mississippi Department of Transportation

Chukwuma Nnaji, Texas A&M University

Connie Sprague, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation

Atruro Arias-Fernandez, Federal Highway Administration

James Bryant, Transportation Research Board

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