How You Can Be Proactive When it Comes to Injury Prevention
A Brief Case Study in Behavior-Based Safety
Most traditional safety systems focus on tracking injury-related incidents (e.g., OSHA/MSHA recordables, lost-time accidents) as a means of evaluating safety success. Although it is important to track these events, the incidents themselves are most likely the result of actions taken by one or more people. Thus, they are outcomes of behavior or lagging indicators of safety.
To be most successful in preventing injuries, we recommend that you focus upstream when evaluating safety success. That is, although it is important to track incidents, you should also measure the potential for incidents to occur. This will allow your department or worksite to make adjustments prior to someone getting hurt or property being damaged.
The best way to be proactive is to define safety in terms of on-going behaviors and measure how often employees are doing the safe versus at-risk behaviors on day-to-day basis. Of course, this will work better when you select behaviors related to the types of incidents your archives suggest occur most often.
For example, one client identified through injury records that they had a problem with eye injuries occurring during the summer months. With the knowledge that appropriate use of eye protection should prevent those injuries, they used their behavior-based safety process to measure how often employees were using eye protection in situations where it was warranted. By observing occurrences of this safe behavior (i.e., use of eye protection during critical times), they determined that levels of safety glass use were lower than expected, but only under certain conditions. With this information, they made the adjustments necessary to increase the occurrence of the safe behavior (use of eye-protection) by ensuring that employees knew when they should be using safety glasses, making the safety glasses more available (the primary source of the problem), and recognizing the appropriate use of safety glasses with positive feedback when it was observed. The result was a decrease in eye injuries. In fact, this facility has experienced no eye injuries (and saved several thousand dollars) since making the simple changes to promote the use of safety glasses. All of this was made possible by first taking steps to implement a safety system that allowed them to measure behavior. Of course, the easiest way to jump start this kind of process is to involve employees in the process of observation and feedback.
Future safety tips at this site will provide information about the characteristics of an effective behavioral observation system and also how to effectively motivate employee involvement in safety, as well as increases in employee safety-related behavior. Please be aware that re-training alone will NOT solve many of the safety problems you encounter.
Finally, we welcome your feedback and suggestions for other topics of interest to include in our newsletter. Please click on the comments button below to post your comment or question or e-mail us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Until next time, be safe and place your focus on identifying and promoting actions that prevent injuries. The outcomes you are seeking will soon follow.