A coming out party for behavioral safety
June 1, 2000
What does it say that a lack of interest killed the American Society of Safety Engineers' plans for a symposium on OSHA compliance in January, 1997, and a year later ASSE had to turn people away from a conference on behavioral safety? Why did 860 specialists -- more than double ASSE's expectations pay several thousand dollars to travel to Orlando, Fla., at the end of February to hear psychologists and consultants lecture on how to change behaviors, attitudes, and workplace cultures? For Tom Krause, co-founder and CEO of Behavioral Science Technology, and one of the featured speakers, the turnout marked mainstream safety's embrace of behavior-based strategies. But safety and health practitioners are "gold medal winners" when it comes to chasing "silver bullets and magic pills" to solve problems, cautioned Dan Petersen, the well-known safety management consultant. Was the two-day Orlando meeting the high-water mark of a fad? Or is the field ready to tackle complex organizational and psychological issues after relying on engineering skills and rules enforcement for half a century?