Playing it Safe: How Gamification Drives Safety Engagement

This blog post explores the power of gamification in promoting construction site safety, showcasing case studies and providing simple ideas for gamifying safety procedures, with a special focus on Scratchie's innovative approach.
July 31, 2023
Nicole Celestine, Ph.D.
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Imagine yourself sitting on the sofa, controller in hand, utterly engrossed in an enthralling video game. You lose track of time as you traverse complex levels, vanquish formidable foes, and unlock remarkable accomplishments.

With each victory, a surge of excitement courses through your veins, compelling you to push further and surpass your own limits. You're driven by an insatiable desire to succeed and see what lies beyond the next challenge. 

In a word—you’re hooked.

Upon imagining this scenario, you might wonder what it is about games that effortlessly conjures such a strength of focus and engagement. Further, you might ask yourself what it would take to summon this energy and enthusiasm in other domains of your life, and particularly for the things that matter most.

By understanding what drives us in the realm of play, could we unlock the potential to create equally compelling and motivating experiences in our everyday lives?

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Unlocking Motivation: The Power of Gamification

Gamification is a powerful tool that leverages game elements and mechanics to engage and motivate individuals in non-game contexts.

In the construction industry, where safety is of paramount importance, gamification can play a crucial role in promoting a culture of safety and enhancing workers' adherence to safety protocols. By incorporating game-like features into work, such as challenges, rewards, and leaderboards, gamification can transform safety compliance into an engaging and interactive experience.

Whether you aim to inspire friendly competition or increase your workers’ sense of achievement, the applications for creating a safety-conscious culture through play are boundless. In this post, we’ll explore the psychology and science of gamification, uncovering its potential to promote worker compliance and revolutionise construction site safety.

The Science of Psychological Need Fulfilment

To understand how gamification exerts such powerful effects on our motivation, we need to take a look at the psychological science of needs.

Psychological needs are fundamental aspects of human wellbeing that drive our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. They represent essential desires that must be fulfilled for humans to experience optimal satisfaction and motivation.

According to self-determination theory (SDT), the world's leading theory of motivation, individuals inherently possess three core needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

  • Autonomy

The desire for independence and control over one's actions. For example, when workers feel empowered to choose their own tasks and work methods, it helps foster a sense of independence and control over their actions.

  • Competence

The need to feel capable and effective in achieving goals. For example, when workers complete training modules, earn certifications, or are recognised for their achievements, they gain a sense of accomplishment and confidence in their abilities.

  • Relatedness

Involves forming meaningful connections and belongingness. For example, collaborative team-building exercises can help foster a supportive work environment in which workers can develop meaningful connections and a sense of camaraderie.

These three core needs are considered universal and are thought to apply across various domains of life, including work, leisure, and relationships.

When these needs are met, individuals experience enhanced motivation, wellbeing, and overall satisfaction. Conversely, when these needs are not fulfilled, it can lead to decreased motivation, lower wellbeing, and dissatisfaction.

Any action we perceive as potentially satisfying one or more of these needs also tends to affect our motivation. You can recognise this motivation in yourself any time you experience a psychological ‘pull’ toward an activity, taking the form of curiosity, enthusiasm, or excitement.

Gamification for Need Satisfaction: Two Case Studies

Game design elements can be likened to shortcuts for satisfying our core psychological needs; they provide structured and engaging experiences that cater to these three fundamental desires.

Gamification, therefore, is the practice of designing work to make opportunities for wellbeing more salient and satisfying to workers.

Up to now, gamification has mostly been applied in two contexts—game-based learning and daily task behaviour. Let’s now take a look at each to explore their applications for enhancing safety knowledge and behaviour in the construction industry.

Game-Based Learning

Game-based learning is a type of gamification that incorporates elements of games to enhance the learning experience. It leverages the inherent motivational aspects of games, such as challenges, rewards, and competition, to engage learners and promote active participation.

In game-based learning, learners often interact with game-like activities, simulations, or scenarios that simulate real-life situations, allowing them to acquire knowledge, develop skills, and practice problem-solving in an immersive and enjoyable environment.

A great illustration is the approach taken by Walmart, who were looking for innovative ways to generate greater employee awareness around safety policies and procedures. Recognising the importance of safety practices and the need to reduce risks, accidents, and costs, Walmart implemented a microlearning platform with gamification embedded.

Staff were encouraged to spend a few minutes playing games while answering safety-related questions. The platform provided instant feedback, highlighting correct and incorrect answers, and reinforcing knowledge through subsequent questions.

The result? Recordable incidents at distribution centres decreased by 54% during the platform’s pilot phase, demonstrating a significant improvement in safety. Further, the program not only increased knowledge levels on safety topics by approximately 15%, but behaviour observations indicated that 96% of employees were applying the acquired knowledge effectively on the job. 

Could it be that Walmart’s use of gamification effectively applied the science of psychological needs to achieve these remarkable outcomes?

It’s clear the platform offered autonomy by providing employees the freedom to engage with the game at their own pace and convenience. It also promoted competence by creating a digital environment for employees to develop their skills and confidence with targeted feedback.

Taken together, these game elements align with the requirements for satisfaction for two of three core needs, having benefits for motivation and engagement with safety education and behaviour.

Now contrast this to a safety training program where trainees are required to passively listen to an instructor without any autonomy in choosing their learning methods or pace. Worse still would be a program that lacked hands-on activities or simulations to increase workers’ skills and confidence.

The absence of autonomy may undermine the trainees' sense of independence and control. Moreover, the lack of practical application may further prevent the development of competence, as trainees are unable to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting.

The result? Trainees may feel disengaged, demotivated, and less inclined to prioritise safety in their work.

Gamification in Daily Task Behaviour

As an evolving art and science, new and more innovative forms of gamification continue to emerge across industries. Many of these are embedded into the daily performance of work itself, such as through digital platforms and real-time feedback mechanisms.

Scratchie offers a prime example of gamification applied to daily task behaviour in the construction industry. Through its gamified approach, Scratchie reinforces safe behaviours by allowing supervisors to issue on-the-spot rewards to workers who demonstrate positive safety attitudes.

When a construction supervisor observes a worker performing a task safely, such as finding and fixing an electrical hazard, they can create an award using the Scratchie app. The award is categorised based on the specific safety activity, such as “electrical protection” or “traffic control.”

After the award has been generated, the recipient scans the QR code with their own app, and the award is revealed after a five-second countdown. This reward can then be immediately claimed and transferred to the winner's bank account.

By turning safety recognition into a gamified experience, Scratchie effectively taps into the psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. 

Through Scratchie's gamification features, workers gain autonomy by being able to actively participate in the safety reward process, rather than it being mandatorily enforced from the top down. They also develop competence by receiving immediate recognition for their safe behaviours and being motivated to repeat them.

Finally, the app promotes relatedness by fostering a positive safety culture, where workers feel connected to their supervisors and peers through the recognition and rewards they receive.

The result is that the motivation inherent in the game experience transfers to the realm of safety. What was once perceived as a mundane and obligatory aspect of work becomes coloured with excitement, making it an integral and positively anticipated part of workers' daily routines.

4 Simple Ideas for Gamifying Construction Safety 

Looking for some simple yet effective ways to gamify safety procedures and promote compliance among your workers? Here are some low-resource, easy-to-implement ideas that can bring an element of gamification to construction site safety:

1. Safety Bingo

Create safety-themed bingo cards that include common safety practices, equipment, or hazards found on construction sites. Workers can mark off the items as they spot them throughout the day. Encourage friendly competition by offering small rewards or recognition for completing a row or achieving a full bingo.

2. Safety Spotter

Designate safety spotters among the workers who are responsible for identifying and reporting safety hazards or near-miss incidents. Workers can earn points or tokens for each hazard they spot and report. At the end of a designated period, recognise and reward the safety spotter with the highest number of reports.

3. Safety Trivia

Incorporate safety trivia quizzes into regular toolbox talks or safety meetings. Ask questions related to safety procedures, equipment usage, or emergency protocols. Workers who answer correctly can earn points or tokens. Consider creating a leaderboard to encourage friendly competition and enhance knowledge retention.

4. Safety Pledge Wall

Set up a visible safety pledge wall or board where workers can voluntarily commit to following safety protocols. Provide markers or sticky notes for workers to write down their personal safety commitments and stick them on the wall. This visual display serves as a reminder of individual and collective responsibility towards safety.

These simple gamification ideas can inject an element of fun and motivation into construction site safety procedures without requiring extensive resources or complicated technologies. The key is to adapt these ideas to suit the specific needs and dynamics of your site while keeping the focus on engaging workers, reinforcing safe behaviours, and promoting a strong safety culture.

Make Safety Fun with Scratchie

Incorporating gamification into construction site safety procedures can have a profound impact on motivation, engagement, and compliance.

By understanding the science of psychological needs and leveraging game design elements, construction site managers can create compelling and enjoyable experiences that enhance safety awareness and behaviour among workers.

Curious how Scratchie makes safety fun and engaging? Be sure to join our live Procore webinar in early August, where you'll get to explore the features and benefits of Scratchie firsthand and discover how it can revolutionise safety practices on your construction site.

Remember, safety should never be a game of chance. Don't miss this opportunity to unlock the power of gamification and create a safer environment on your worksite.

Click one of the buttons below to register to upcoming webinars in Australia and the US:


What is gamification?

Gamification is the practice of incorporating game elements and mechanics into non-game contexts to engage and motivate individuals. It involves using features such as challenges, rewards, and competition to make tasks more enjoyable and interactive.

What are our three core psychological needs?

According to Self-Determination Theory (SDT), humans possess three core needs: Autonomy, competence, and relatedness.

  • Autonomy - the need for independence and control over one's actions. 
  • Competence - the need to feel capable and effective in achieving goals.
  • Relatedness - forming meaningful connections and experiencing a sense of belongingness.

These three needs are universal, cutting across cultural divides. Creating environments that allow individuals to foster these needs is believed to be key for promoting wellbeing, motivation, and positive outcomes for individuals and organisations.

What is game-based learning?

Game-based learning is a type of gamification that incorporates elements of games to enhance the learning experience. It leverages the motivational aspects of games, such as challenges, rewards, and competition, to engage learners and promote active participation in acquiring knowledge and developing skills.

How does gamification transform safety practices in the workplace?

Gamification transforms safety practices by making them more engaging and rewarding. It turns safety compliance from a mundane task into an enjoyable and positively anticipated experience.

By incorporating game elements, workers are motivated to prioritise safety, leading to improved safety outcomes, reduced accidents, and a positive work environment.

How does Scratchie apply gamification to daily task performance?

Scratchie is a safety app that applies gamification to daily task performance in the construction industry. It allows construction supervisors to issue on-the-spot rewards to workers who demonstrate positive safety attitudes.

Workers scan a QR code generated by supervisors, revealing their awards after a countdown. These rewards can be immediately claimed and transferred to the winners' bank accounts, motivating them to repeat safe behaviours.

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