What Defines Behavioral Safety
Many believe that if they are doing something to improve safety and it involves people's behavior then they are doing 'Behavioral Safety'. This is not always true! There are a number of defining features that distinguish Behavioral Safety from other types of safety improvement efforts. Check it out..
Behavioral Safety involves a systematic, improvement intervention; A unique feature of Behavioral Safety is the introduction of a planned schedule of events that combine to create an overall continuous improvement intervention: This planned schedule often begins with briefing sessions for all those workareas and departments that will be involved. People are asked to volunteer to either become observers or part of the project team or steering committee. These people are trained to carry out their respective duties. The project team identifies unsafe behaviors that are placed on checklists. The approval of those being monitored is then sought to ensure they are in agreement with the behaviors on the checklists. Once the checklists are developed the trained observers carry out observations for a certain period of time to establish a baseline (usually a week or so), with which subsequent performance can be compared. Once the average baseline score has been determined, the intervention is implemented at kick-off meetings, or goal-setting sessions whereby the workgroups set improvement targets for themselves. Subsequently, the trained observers continue to monitor their colleague’s safety behaviors on a regular basis. The observation scores are then analysed so that fine detailed feedback can be given to those concerned on a regular basis. The project team also monitors the data for trends so that improvements can be highlighted and praised or corrective actions can be taken. In this way Behavioral Safety incorporates the principles of continuous improvement.
Behavioral Safety is based on observational data collection; On the basis of ‘what gets measured gets done’, trained observers monitor their peers safety behavior on a regular basis. Obviously the greater the number of observations, the more reliable the data is, and the more likely it is that safety behavior will improve. This is in accordance with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, whereby the very act of observing and measuring people’s safety behavior alters the behavior of those being observed. Thus if someone is descending the stairs without holding the handrail and is seen by a trained observer during an observation ‘tour’, that person will probably change their behavior to that of holding the handrail.
Behavioral Safety involves significant workforce participation: One of the reasons Behavioral Safety is so successful is that it fully engages the workforce in safety management, perhaps for the first time in their working lives. Traditionally, safety management has been top-down driven, with a tendency for it to become stuck at the front-line management level. This means that those workers most likely to engage in unsafe behavior or to be hurt have traditionally been divorced from the safety improvement process. Behavioral Safety overcomes this by deliberately involving those most likely to be hurt so they are actively engaged in eliminating the occurrences of unsafe behaviors.Without such widespread workforce involvement, the ownership of, and commitment to, the process will be lacking and the initiative will probably fail.
Behavioral Safety targets specific unsafe behaviors. Another reason for the success of Behavioral Safety is its focus on that 'small proportion of unsafe behaviors that are responsible for the lions share of a company’s safety incidents'. Targeting these will eliminate the incidents historically associated with them. These behaviors can be discovered via Pareto analyses or other systematic means of examining a company’s incident records. Most Behavioral Safety practitioners utilise Applied Behavioral Analytic techniques to identify the workplace factors that drive or trigger particular unsafe behaviors and the consequences or rewards to the person for engaging in these unsafe behaviors. Some also identify the associated management system faults so that they can be addressed in order to stop them triggering unsafe behaviors. The unsafe or safe behaviors identified from such a process are written onto a checklist of some type. These are divided into categories (e.g. Housekeeping, Use of Tools, Line of Fire, Personal Protective Equipment, etc.,) and presented to employees for their approval or ‘buy-in’. As the Behavioral Safety process matures, people identify other unsafe behaviors and place these on the checklists as the original unsafe behaviors are eliminated or bought under control. The golden rules for these behaviors are  that they are directly observable: i.e. anybody can see them as they occur; and  are within people's control (i.e. everything is in place so that people can behave safely.
Behavioral Safety involves regular focused feedback about on-going performance; Feedback is the key ingredient of any type of improvement initiative. Behavioral Safety feedback usually takes three forms: Verbal feedback to people at the time of observation; Graphical feedback where trends of weekly behavioral performance on large graphs is placed in strategic locations in the workplace; and weekly tabulated feedback reports are dicussed by work crews. In combination, these forms of feedback overcome apathy and allow focused improvements to take place. In many instances, tabulated feedback is also discussed by Steering committees and/ or management teams on a monthly basis.
Behavioral Safety involves data-driven decision-making processes; A further reason for the success of behavioral safety is its emphases on focused data-driven decision-making. The observation scores are turned into some form of metric: usually the percentage of behaviors performed safely. By examining trends in this data, it soon becomes evident where barriers to improvement lie. This enables those running the project to provide finely detailed feedback to those concerned so that they can either undertake corrective actions (e.g. fix a machine guard) for persistent unsafe behaviors or provide positive reinforcement to those working safely. Indeed this data can be so sensitive that it becomes possible to identify particular workflow processes that inadvertently are leading people to behave unsafely.
Behavioral Safety requires visible on-going support from managers and front-line supervision: Management’s visible and demonstrable commitment to the process is vital. They usually demonstrate their commitment by allowing the observers the time to conduct their observation tours; Give praise and recognition to those working safely; Provide the necessary resources and assistance for remedial actions to take place; Help to set up and run regular feedback sessions; and generally promote the initiative whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. The reason for the failure of a behavioral safety intervention (which sometimes occurs) is almost always due to a lack of management’s commitment and support to the process.
The above features are an integral part of any fully-fledged Behavioral Safety process. If your effort does not include all these, then you are not doing Behavioral Safety (though with a bit of work, some of you could turn your effort into a fully functioning Behavioral Safety process).
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