Gamification in Safety Management: Engaging or Trivialising Serious Matters?

Explore the use of gamification in safety management. Does it engage workers effectively or trivialise serious matters? This post delves into this debate, discusses best practices, and presents Scratchie, a tool revolutionising safety with gamification.
May 16, 2023
James Kell
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Picture this scenario: a construction supervisor sees a worker keeping an area tidy without being asked. Recognising this as a demonstration of a positive safety attitude, the supervisor whips out their phone, opens an app, and issues an on-the-spot reward for the worker's commendable behaviour.

The worker feels seen, valued, and motivated to continue prioritising safety, and over time, this repeated positive reinforcement fosters a culture of safety among the entire team. This isn't a scene from a utopian future; it's a reality made possible by Scratchie, an innovative Australian app designed to revolutionise safety in the construction industry and beyond.

At its core, Scratchie uses the principles of gamification, the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-gaming contexts, to drive safety improvements. But as with any innovative approach, it's sparked a debate: does gamification engage workers more effectively or trivialise the seriousness of safety management?

Understanding Gamification in Safety Management

Gamification, a concept that's been gaining traction in various fields, is now making its presence felt in safety management. By definition, gamification involves applying game elements—such as points, badges, and leaderboards—in non-gaming contexts. In the context of safety management, these game-like elements are integrated into safety programs and training to make them more engaging and, consequently, more effective.

The potential benefits of gamification are far-reaching. For one, it can boost engagement among employees. When safety training and protocols are presented in a game-like format, they can become more interesting and engaging, encouraging greater participation. This increased engagement, in turn, can lead to improved retention of safety procedures and guidelines, as employees are more likely to remember information that they find interesting.

Moreover, gamification can also enhance the overall safety culture within an organisation. By fostering a sense of friendly competition and achievement, gamified safety programs can motivate employees to consistently adhere to safety protocols and strive for excellence in safety practices. Over time, this can result in a stronger, more robust safety culture—an environment where safety is valued and prioritised by all.

For instance, Scratchie, with its on-the-spot rewards for positive safety behaviour, applies gamification principles effectively. It allows supervisors to immediately recognise and reward safe behaviour, thereby reinforcing such behaviour and encouraging workers to maintain a positive safety attitude. Through its unique approach, Scratchie demonstrates how gamification can be used as a powerful tool for driving safety improvements.

However, as with any strategy, gamification in safety management also has its critics. These critics argue that gamification risks trivialising the serious nature of safety management, and they raise valid concerns that need to be addressed. But before we delve into this debate, it's crucial to remember that gamification isn't inherently good or bad—it's how it's applied that determines its effectiveness.

The Controversy: Engaging or Trivialising?

As we delve deeper into the concept of gamification in safety management, it's vital to consider the ongoing debate: does gamification serve as a meaningful tool for engagement or does it risk trivialising the gravity of safety matters?

Proponents' View: Engagement and Positive Behaviour

Supporters of gamification in safety management cite its potential to boost employee engagement and promote positive safety behaviour. They believe that gamification can be a catalyst for a healthier safety culture by making safety training and practices more interesting and engaging.

One of the key strengths of gamification is its potential to make learning enjoyable. By transforming mundane safety training into interactive, game-like experiences, employees are more likely to be engaged and absorb the information. This enhanced engagement can, in turn, lead to improved retention of safety procedures and guidelines, fostering a stronger safety culture.

Furthermore, gamification can act as a positive reinforcement tool, motivating employees to exhibit safe behaviour consistently. For instance, Scratchie's on-the-spot rewards system encourages workers to prioritise safety, reinforcing such behaviour and fostering a culture where safety is valued and upheld by all.

Critics' View: Trivialising Serious Matters

Despite the potential benefits, critics argue that gamification can risk trivialising the serious nature of safety management. They express concerns that transforming safety training and practices into a game might lead employees to view safety as a mere competition rather than a crucial aspect of their job.

Moreover, critics worry that gamification might incentivise the wrong behaviours. For example, workers might focus on winning rewards or achieving high scores, overshadowing the primary focus on safety. There's also a risk that employees might rush through safety procedures or cut corners to earn points or badges faster, which could ultimately compromise safety.

These concerns are valid and must be addressed when considering the implementation of gamification in safety management. It's crucial to strike a balance—using gamification as a tool for engagement without trivialising the importance of safety. How can this be achieved?

Striking a Balance

Navigating the line between engagement and trivialisation requires careful consideration and thoughtful implementation of gamification in safety management. It’s not just about introducing game elements; it’s about designing a system that genuinely motivates and educates employees about safety practices.

One crucial aspect is setting the right rewards. In Scratchie's case, rewards are given for behaviours that demonstrate a positive safety attitude—like keeping an area tidy or efficiently completing safety procedures—encouraging a focus on safety, not merely game progress.

Moreover, it's essential to ensure that gamification doesn't foster unhealthy competition. The focus should always remain on safety, not on outscoring colleagues. One way to achieve this is by promoting teamwork instead of individual competition. For instance, implementing team-based rewards for maintaining safety standards can encourage collective responsibility for safety.

Best Practices for Implementing Gamification in Safety Management

Successful implementation of gamification in safety management often involves the following strategies:

1. Clear Objectives:

It's essential to establish clear objectives for your gamification strategy. What specific safety behaviours are you aiming to reinforce or encourage? How will gamification help achieve these objectives?

2. Relevant Rewards:

The rewards should be meaningful and relevant to the employees. This not only motivates them to participate but also ensures they value the safety behaviours being rewarded.

3. Continuous Feedback:

Providing continuous feedback can help employees understand where they're excelling and where improvement is needed. This continuous learning cycle can foster a deeper understanding of safety practices.

4. Integration with Existing Safety Platforms:

To ensure seamless operation, the gamification system should ideally integrate with existing safety platforms. Scratchie, for instance, is working on integrating with various construction industry safety platforms.

Drawing Insights for Future Safety Management Practices

Gamification presents both opportunities and challenges in the realm of safety management. While it can foster engagement and reinforce positive safety behaviours, it also carries the risk of trivialising serious safety matters. However, with careful design and thoughtful implementation, it's possible to harness the benefits of gamification while mitigating its potential drawbacks.

As a safety manager, it's essential to weigh these considerations and approach gamification responsibly. By striking the right balance, you can create an environment where safety is not just a requirement, but a valued part of your workplace culture.


What is gamification in the context of safety management?

Gamification involves applying game-design elements and principles in non-gaming contexts, like safety management. It can include elements such as points, badges, leaderboards, and on-the-spot rewards for safe behaviour.

How does gamification increase engagement in safety management?

Gamification makes safety protocols more engaging by adding a level of competition and instant gratification. It motivates employees to adhere to safety regulations and fosters a positive safety culture within the organisation.

What are the criticisms of gamification in safety management?

Critics argue that gamification can trivialise serious matters like safety. They worry that the competitive aspects could overshadow the importance of safety and potentially incentivise the wrong behaviours.

How can we ensure gamification doesn't trivialise safety?

It's crucial to design and implement gamification thoughtfully. The rewards system should reinforce positive safety behaviours without making light of the serious consequences of unsafe practices. Regular reviews can help to adjust the system and keep the focus on safety.

Can you give an example of successful gamification in safety management?

Scratchie is an example of successful gamification in safety management. It's an app that allows supervisors in the construction industry to issue on-the-spot rewards for safe behaviour, promoting a positive safety culture among workers.

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