Why Zero Injuries Does NOT Always Mean Your Worksite is Safe

Does Your Behavior-Based Safety Process Make the Grade?

Recently, I have found myself doing many more sessions on the benefits of behavior pinpointing to increase the success of safety programs. This has been due, in part, as a response to some powerful industry safety leaders who have mistakenly equated measurement with behavior-based safety. Although measurement is a hallmark of a good behavior-based safety process, what is measured and how it is measured defines whether or not you are truly doing behavior-based safety. Put simply, if your behavior-based safety process focuses on tracking traditional outcome measures of safety such as lost-time accidents and recordable injuries, involves a “root cause” analysis of incidents or near-misses when they occur and banks on a pre-work discussion of safe operating procedures to address these issues, you are not doing behavior-based safety.

Behavior-based safety focuses on the measurement of behaviors—anything a person says or does. In contrast, injuries, near misses and property damage are the products of behaviors. They are things that people “leave behind.” To be successful in preventing injuries, we should pinpoint both outcomes (results) and behaviors, but place the focus on behaviors.

For example, we may pinpoint a decrease in eye injuries as a result we are striving to achieve. In order to ensure our success, we would then pinpoint the behaviors we need to increase that would prevent eye injuries, including the use of eye protection, positioning oneself out of the line of fire of debris, etc. Pinpointing both behaviors and results will most likely lead to success. This is especially true when we embark on an employee-driven behavior-observation and feedback process to measure the critical behaviors. Behavior observation, done by employees in the field, is another hallmark of behavior-based safety.

So, I urge you to be weary of programs that call themselves behavior-based that do not: a) explicitly pinpoint and measure behaviors, b) base decisions on observed levels of safety behaviors, and c) involve the workforce in making formal behavioral observations in the field. For example, programs such as PASS, observation processes focusing on conditions, or reward programs that do not let you quantify the frequency of safe versus at-risk behavior do not truly qualify as behavior-based safety. These programs are, indeed, better than doing nothing, but do not maximize the potential of a workforce’s involvement in safety.

If you are thinking about starting a Behavior-Based Safety process, please consider downloading the Introduction to Behavior-Based Safety PowerPoint presentation I have available on my products page.  This modifiable presentation includes comprehensive speakers notes to help you teach others of the benefits of such a process. 

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