Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) approaches seem to be getting a bad reputation these days. The Human Operations and Learning Teams approaches to safety seem to be very popular, and the concepts in these safety approaches have loads of applicability to the workplace and making improvements at an organizational level. The success of these newer approaches has led many to think that newer is necessarily better. I think conversations about these systems help us distill what is worthwhile for safety managers today.
Training is a great example of how BBS is still relevant. Training is a foundational concept in the behavior-based safety model. The truth of the matter is that in the real-world work environment there is still solid case for managing the decisions and behaviors of employees. If this were not true, would our employees need training at all? Most employees want to do good work and want the training they need to do a good job. Training is a management and supervisory approach to help employees make decisions that are better for the organization. Every organization depends on employee involvement to have safe operations.
BBS concepts have been around for a while now, and we have had many more opportunities to implement them improperly. Somewhere along the line, the wrong message was received. That unintended message said, “My workers’ decisions are the reason for my problems. If I fix my workers so that they make better decisions, I will have fewer problems.” This previous sentence is not consistent with Behavior-Based Safety because it uses blame as a foundational function. Blame disrupts the communication cycle that a BBS program depends on.
We should be looking for ways to understand the behaviors of everyone within an organization. I believe that the foundational concepts of BBS are still solid:
•Most incidents/injuries are triggered by unsafe behaviors.
•Behaviors are leading indicators that predict performance.
•Behaviors are measurable; attitudes are not easily measurable.
•Addressing behavior change can solve real-world problems.
•Safety partnership between management and employees that focuses attention on processes and systems creates a framework for safety success as behaviors are updated and improved.
•Understanding how work is accomplished.
•Preventing errors reduces the chances for injuries and other problems.
•Discovering root causes can help identify ways to prevent incidents from happening again.
If we implement a solid BBS program, we will have:
- An organized system for solving problems that arise.
- An engaged workforce that participates in the safety program.
- A process for continuous improvement.
Behavior-based safety—it can still work when implemented in a focused, deliberate way.