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What is behavioural safety?

Everybody who works to reduce accidents and improves safe performance is concerned with human behaviour.

“Behaviour and accidents is what it’s all about,” is a commonly heard phrase."

Are you checking your forklifts?While behavioural safety shares a concern with human behaviour and safe performance in the workplace with other approaches, it is more than that.

Behavioural safety is the application of behavioural research on human performance to the problems of safety in the workplace.

Behaviour-based safety is a promising technology for industry. It is an excellent tool for collecting data on the quality of a company’s safety management system. It is a scientific way to understand why people behave the way they do when it comes to safety. If it is properly applied, it is also an effective next step towards creating a truly pro-active safety culture where loss prevention is a core value. However, behaviour-based safety is conceptually easy to understand but often hard to implement and sustain.

How does Behavioural Safety work?

Behaviour analysis is the science of behaviour change.

Applied behaviour analysis is the application of the science of behaviour change to real world problems. As we do this, we are looking for functional or systematic relationships between Environmental changes, i.e., the stimuli or cues that lead to behaviour.

The behaviour itself, such as specific areas of work performance, and the consequences of behaviour, i.e. the positive or negative responses that occur immediately after a person performs a particular work task. These relationships have been exhaustively studied. Applied behaviour analysis applies the lessons learned to the challenges of human behaviour in everyday life.

What are the benefits of applying behaviour-based safety?

a) Reduce injuries and modify employee behaviour by reinforcing safe work practices and eliminating at-risk behaviour

b) Reduce costs related to injuries and incidents

c) Develop communications skills

d) Raise overall safety awareness

e) Increase observation skills

f) Develop leadership skills

g) Communicate management’s commitment to safety.

h) All injuries and occupational illnesses can be prevented

i) Safety is everyone’s responsibility

j) Management is directly accountable for preventing injuries and occupational illnesses

k) Safety is a condition of employment

l) Training is an essential element for workplace safety

m) Safety audits must be conducted frequently

n) Safe work practices must be reinforced, and all unsafe acts and conditions must be corrected promptly

o) It is essential to investigate all near missed, incidents and injuries

p) Preventing injuries and occupational illnesses is good business

q) People are the most critical element in the success of a safety health program.

How to implement behavioural-based safety process

  1. Design the behavioural-based safety process
  2. Train managers and supervisors
  3. Start the process
  4. Extend the feedback and involvement process
  5. Enhance recognition and celebration.

Things to consider:

  • Management team review
  • Pinpoint target safety practices
  • Deciding which employee behaviours to include on the checklist is a balancing act between including all those practices essential to creating a safe workplace and creating a checklist that is simple and easy to use.
  • Each item must be detailed enough to allow independent observers to agree on how to record their observations.
  • The goal is to develop a checklist format that is reliable and easy to use.
  • Who will conduct the coaching?
  • What training will management need?
  • Allowing employees to make videos or slides of near-miss incidents or past incident situations provides an effective training tool that creates a high level of involvement.
  • Small groups of eight to ten people are ideal as they provide employees with a better opportunity for discussion and questions than do larger groups.

Behavioural Safety recognition process provides a way of celebrating your successes and saying thanks to those employees who work safely and those that make special contributions.

Key Questions for behavioural-based safety

  • Do you follow safe work practices on and off the job?
  • When assigning work, do you discuss the safe practices required for the job and the associated hazards?
  • Do you remember to be particularly alert for reactions of people in the first 10-30 seconds after you enter the area?
  • Do you use a questioning attitude on the job, asking yourself what injuries could occur if the unexpected happens, and how the job can be performed more safely?
  • When you observe, do you use all your senses (total observation) and do you remember to look above, below, around and inside?
  • Do you talk with people who are working safely to reinforce safe work practices?
  • Do you take immediate corrective action when you observe an unsafe act?
  • Do you take action to prevent recurrence when you observe an unsafe act?
  • Do you routinely review job procedures to make sure they are adequate, known, understood and followed?
  • Are you satisfied with the running of your area?
  • Do you observe each person from head-to-toe at least twice a shift, making certain each body part is protected? 
  • Do you make sure people are safe from potential injury causes by looking at their positions as they work?
  • After observing people’s positions, do you check the tools and equipment they are using?
  • When preventing recurrence, do you use a questioning attitude and listen – Giving the person a chance to tell you what the hazards are?
  • Do you use your judgment and stay alert for the underlying causes of unsafe acts so your actions fit both the situation and your company policies?
  • Do you investigate unusual odours and sounds in your area?
  • Do you observe for evaporative acts?
  • Do you talk with the person involved until they understand why the act is hazardous?
  • Do you analyse trends after you investigate underlying causes?