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Improving BuS Transit Safety Through Rewards and Discipline Summary Safety is a paramount concern for all transit operations. Public transit agencies have used a combination of rewards and corrective actions to recognize, motivate, and reinforce a safety culture within their organizations. Although this project was intended to document current practices in bus operator safety with a focus on rewards and discipline programs, it does not attempt to make any determination as to recommended or best practices. Progressive discipline is widely used in the transit industry and offers employees and management alternatives that may reduce negative behavior. The process that an employer may utilize consists of a series of consequences, increasing in severity over time, which may result in a modification of any negative behavior, including misconduct, poor performance, violations of company policy, absenteeism, and tardiness. Traditionally, progressive discipline has been used to address safety-related performance deficiencies and to correct behaviors that have led to unsafe acts. Now, however, a growing number of transit systems have begun to offer incentive programs rewarding employees or groups of employees who have achieved safety and performance milestones. Importantly, new and innovative safety programs are emerging to motivate and engage a diverse and changing workforce. This synthesis can be used to aid public transit agencies and other stake- holders in deciding how to proceed in this area. A literature review on the use of rewards and discipline programs for bus operators in the public transit industry, a survey of 30 North American transit agencies with active bus operator safety programs, and case examples of selected transit agencies were undertaken to document the state of the practice, including lessons learned and gaps in information. Each of the selected transit agencies was sent a link to the online survey explaining the purpose and importance of the survey. Follow-up e-mails were sent approximately two weeks after the original contact to encourage participation. Partial responses were received from the candidate transit agencies; however, a closer examination revealed that only 25 of the responses were substantially complete, resulting in a response rate of 83.3%. The literature review and survey results provided a wealth of detailed information on the core issues related to bus operator safety programs. Following the review and analysis of this information, nine transit agencies, eight from the United States and one from Canada, were selected as case example sites. The case examples provided additional detail and insight on active and innovative practices and related issues on the use of reward and discipline to promote transit safety. The major findings of this synthesis included: · Every participating transit agency in the study emphasized the importance of safety in its mission and in its operations. Differences between agency approaches to safety were obvious in the variation of methods and level of agency commitment directed toward accomplishing the agency's safety goals.
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2 · The presence of a disciplinary code for safety-related matters was a constant among all agencies. All approaches were progressive in nature with exceptions only for the most serious of safety-related offenses. Determining the effectiveness of discipline as a method for improving safety was recognized as difficult for a number of reasons, most notably the absence of a control group (i.e., an agency that does not have a disciplinary code by which to compare). Because disciplinary policies are rarely changed, a pre-/post- evaluation of the effectiveness of the change is also difficult to evaluate. · Based on the survey responses and case examples, safety incentive programs appear to be successful when used in conjunction with an existing safety program. An effective safety incentive program encourages employees to exceed the expectations of the program. These programs raise awareness of the organizations' commitment to safety. Addition- ally, safety programs can engage and educate employees, encourage positive behavior change, and reward and recognize employees for contributing to a safe work environment. · Transit agencies have used a variety of reward programs in conjunction with correc- tive action procedures to reinforce organizational safety culture. Based on the findings, agencies that incorporated employee safety reward programs find the programs to be effective tools to improve employee morale, motivate employees to work safely, and help to improve the employeeemployer relationship. These affirmative approaches to safety management, along with the assimilation of consistent discipline programs, have been reported by respondents to be model programs. · Owing to decreasing budgets and increasing operating costs, many transit systems were unable to maintain or implement transit operator reward programs. · Although only a few of the agencies that participated in this study have active employee health and wellness programs, additional research could be conducted to determine if there is evidence to support the need for workplace wellness programs, and to identify any pos- sible benefits associated with these programs. Although there are no empirical data related to the transit industry, the agencies that have comprehensive employee health and wellness programs report increased morale, reduced turnover and less absenteeism. · A number of agencies reported success, some noting measured success, with reward or incentive programs. A variety of program elements were mentioned, including group awards, individual awards, goal-setting, competition, public display of performance, short- term and long-term awards, recognition and sponsored social functions. Also included in the survey findings was the successful use of incentives for those agencies that utilized a contracted service provider with actual performance measured against agency-set perfor- mance standards. This was used to trigger penalties or incentive payments through 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 reward or incentive program that incorporates safety have met with some degree of success. No conclusion can be drawn between any measure of success and individual reward program elements. However, it is important to note that a common theme among the successful award programs is that they were "recent" implementations. This could indicate that a shift in focus from the status quo to a new program might, in itself, result in participants paying more attention to program goals--a solid foundation for any program to build on. This analysis suggests that additional research opportunities and efforts might be under- taken to measure the effectiveness and benefits of employee incentive programs and to iden- tify industry specific discipline programs' best practices. Potential areas for future research include: · A scientifically controlled research study to evaluate the effectiveness of rewards and incentives in reducing accidents. Although research collected during this project suggests that the two programs, developed and incorporated with the participation of the employer, employee, and union, can work effectively, additional research might be conducted to make conclusions based on a larger sample size and quantifiable statistical safety data.
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3 · Research directed toward the development of a standardized, participative process to implement program or policy changes aimed at improving safety. This effort might detail what employee input and participation are necessary to develop successful and effective reward/incentive programs. · Research conducted to examine the opportunities that may exist for public transit agen- cies that contract with service providers to use rewards and penalties within the contract structure for improving safety and overall performance. · Research into whether, and to what degree, health and wellness programs factor into an organization's safety program. Additional research to measure the value of a workplace wellness program to organizational safety and to identify any correlation between these programs and the effects on employee absenteeism, health care costs, work-related injuries, employee morale, and retention is indicated. · Other departments within a transit system contribute to the organization's safety cul- ture. Research conducted to identify successful practices of developing and enhancing the overall safety culture of transit agencies, expanding the focus to all aspects of the organization, not just bus operators, is also indicated.