What is behavior-based safety?

BBS is the application of behavioral psychology to improve safety in the workplace through correcting behaviors that cause incidents and promoting behaviors that are efficient and safe.

Initially, employees are observed and management uses observation data to identify the behaviors that contribute the most to workplace safety, whether promoting good practices or risking danger. That data is used to create an action plan to improve safety and reduce the risk of incidents.

To successfully implement a BBS program, you need a joint effort by both employees and management. Investing the time into making a detailed plan to collect behavior data and create an action plan can improve your organization’s safety perfromance.

What are the benefits?

Some specific benefits include:

  • Proactive risk management. Since BBS focuses on best practices for improving the situation rather than responding to the outcome, it allows you to take a proactive approach to reducing the risk of workplace injury or incident. Instead of responding to incidents after they occur, you can prevent them in the first place. One study revealed that long-term benefits of a BBS program include reduction of injury rate by 79 percent.
  • Improved safety and enhanced quality. Since the main goal of a BBS program is to identify best practices and correct errors, organizations that implement BBS often see a drastic reduction in incidents. But the improvements don’t stop there. The entire task completion processed is improved, enhancing quality of the goods and services provided as well as employee satisfaction and sustainability initiatives.
  • Lower cost of operations. BBS can improve safety so organizations save money on investigating and resolving incidents and violations. Early intervention eliminates the costly ramifications of workplace incidents, especially employee injuries.

How is BBS executed today?

A BBS program can help managers and supervisors develop training programs, implement risk controls and determine what factors play into unsafe working conditions – including equipment; maintenance; operating systems, produces and policies; and the facility environment.

Training in making observations and giving feedback to observed workers can also include knowing how to observe the broader context of risk factors such as equipment, maintenance, operating processes and culture – the way things are done traditionally.

Everything from work hours, protective equipment and in what order tasks are completed can be recorded to fuel an action plan. By tracking near-misses, managing compliance needs and creating visibility into potentially hazardous situations, organizations can use this information to pro-actively improve safety enterprise-wide.

How can I integrate BBS with current systems?

Here are a few examples of how you can utilize BBS to improve other areas of your organization:

  • Employee training. It’s hard to put together an effective training plan without knowing what focus areas should be. Utilizing BBS to observe and record the behavior of employees, supervisor and managers can help create an applied training program that benefits the employees, supervisors and managers and the workplace.
  • Risk management. Proactively preventing incidents is essentially an act of risk management. Preparing workers for risks before incidents occur protects employee health and safety as well as saves money in the long run. A BBS program works with risk management tools to create an organization-wide systematic approach for preventing incidents and measuring the success of preventive controls.
  • Incident management. Despite your best efforts, incidents sometimes happen. When they do, it’s important to have a tool that centralizes event tracking and responding to the incident in an efficient manner. The information gathered from incidents—including the cause and surrounding circumstances—can help management develop a critical inventory of things to look for in their BBS observations.
  • Corrective action. It’s irrelevant to talk about incidents and safety without identifying corrective actions. Corrective actions come out of BBS training and observations because data collected identifies patterns of at-risk work practices and hazardous processes and determines what types of actions to take to prevent these issues from recurring. This helps you focus your BBS and employee training programs to more efficiently and relevantly train employees and tweak processes relating to critical objectives.

Closing thoughts

BBS programs must be comprehensively and completely supported by company management and employees in order to be successful. If there is not mutual trust from both parties to work toward a common goal, the program may not succeed. BBS cannot be a top-down, management-enforced program lacking employee decision-making input. If the whole organization buys into the benefits of BBS, getting the support you need is easier and you can begin taking steps towards increasing workplace safety.