What are the elements of a successful behavior-based safety program?

Q:

I want to use a behavior-based approach to workplace safety at my company, but I want to do it well. What are the elements of a successful behavior-based safety program?

A:

Promoting safe behavior at work plays a critical role in the success of your company’s Health and Safety goals. Despite the criticisms surrounding the implementation of behavior-based safety (BBS) programs in the workplace, if done right, BBS programs can improve safety by championing positive safety behavior.

Consider the following strategies when implementing a behavior-based safety program in your workplace to ensure its efficiency and success (for more advice, see Creating a Behavioral Safety Program).

  • Appoint Dedicated Team Members: Arguably, this is the most important step in the development and implementation of a workplace BBS program. Your team should consist of management and front-line employees that are familiar with the concept of behavior-based safety. The members of this team will be responsible for leading the program design and setting measures of success.

  • Develop a Critical Checklist: By completing data analysis, your team will be able to identify at-risk and safe behaviors. From there, create a checklist that can be used when observing employee behavior. Your list should define everything that needs to be measured, including the who, where, when and what. Check the usability of the list by observing an employee working and determine if all categories on your list can be completed during an inspection.

  • Implement a Measurement System: Your measurement system should be simple and track the frequency of safe and risky employee actions during a behavioral observation.

  • Conduct Behavioral Observations: Appoint a team member to carry out the observations and decide how often observations will be conducted. The observer should make note of significant positive safety behaviors and at-risk behaviors observed, as well as the areas that require changes.

  • Obtain Feedback: Ensure that team members are trained in this behavioral observation process (for training tips, see 7 Superb Psychological Tactics for EHS Training). Feedback regarding the observation process should be obtained immediately after the observation. Describe the behavior observed. Discuss its potential impact. Use visuals such as graphs to explain findings at safety meetings.

  • Make Use of the Data: Use the valuable data obtained to generate solutions to mitigate potential risk. Create a plan of action to change at-risk behaviors, which can include for example, testing hypotheses, making adjustments, and promoting new safe behaviors.

  • Evaluate: Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the program using the improvement goals set out by the appointed team and make program changes as needed.

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Written by Adrian Bartha
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Adrian Bartha is the CEO of eCompliance, which he joined in 2012 after experiencing first-hand how a workplace incident affected a power and utilities company which he led as a member of the Board of Directors. Previously, Adrian was an investment professional for a $5 billion dollar private equity firm investing in energy, construction, and transportation infrastructure companies across North America. When Adrian is out of the office, he can be found riding his futuristic motorcycle and wearing his RoboCop helmet.   Full Bio

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