Having well-developed safety policies, systems and procedures are not enough. In order to promote safe behaviour in the workplace and build a positive safety culture, these plans must be put into practice. To meet the legal obligation to protect their employees, customers and members of the public from workplace hazards, a company’s policies must be reinforced with employee involvement. One way to achieve this goal is through a behavioural-based safety program.
What Is behavioural-based safety?
Behavioural-based safety is the process of building strong relationships between workers, supervisors and management for the purpose of promoting safety in the workplace. Every member of the team has a part to play and emphasis is placed on actions and behaviours. Establishing behaviour-based safety involves studying and measuring unsafe behaviour to provide data that informs changes in the workplace. Behavioural-based safety programs attempt to change workers’ behaviour through training and interventions as part of a comprehensive risk reduction plan. This approach to safety is based on the belief that injuries and illnesses are a result of unsafe acts by workers and, to prevent these unsafe acts, management should target specific dangerous habits and practices with an aim to change them.
Why is behavioural safety important?
Many workplace accidents/incidents occur when a comprehensive safety program has already been developed and put in place, but something more is needed. If unsafe acts are monitored, measured and appropriate action is taken, change can be achieved and long-term solutions for eliminating risks/hazards can be fine-tuned. A culture of safety in the workplace is developed when every employee considers safety important and makes sure that they and their fellow employees are safe.
How does a company implement and encourage behavioural-based safety?
All behavioural safety programs follow a similar process. In order to promote behavioural safety, a company must:
- Observe Employee Habits and Behaviors: Supervisors gather data about employee habits through site observation. They note both safe and unsafe behaviours, endeavouring to understand the ins and outs of work-related safety issues in the specific workplace. The observer fills out a checklist with the safe and at-risk behaviours they noticed along with the date, time and location of the observations.
- Analyze the Information: Relevant data is analyzed to determine which habits and behaviours need to be adjusted to promote a safer workplace. Trends are pinpointed and opportunities for improvement are noted.
- Specify the Desirable Performance: Detailed descriptions of desirable behaviour are created and used as a measuring instrument.
- Generate Solutions: Solutions are identified for problem areas; ways to reduce and/or eliminate the safety hazards identified. Site-specific solutions are required as no one solution fits all circumstances. Employees are involved in the decision-making process, allowing them to offer their ideas/solutions and creating a sense of responsibility for changes.
- Measure Safety Performance: Using the adjusted protocols and desirable performance specifications, supervisors periodically sample and measure safety performance. Measurements are recorded in a database; a log of performance.
- Evaluate: Information in the database is evaluated periodically to determine the effectiveness of the program, and to detect if the desired change has been implemented and is effective.
A behavioural-based safety approach is about reducing unsafe behaviours and continuously improving safety performances by focusing on workers’ behaviour. The attention and responsibility are placed on individual workers rather than only on employers. Behavioural-based programs take time, resources and a concentrated effort to achieve success.
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