Why Zero Injuries Does NOT Always Mean Your Worksite is Safe

Case Study #2

Case Study #2: Behavior-Based Safety Initiative Helps a Large Gold Mining Facility Win “Most Improved” Safety Award

Edited and prepared by Thomas E. (Ted) Boyce, Ph.D.
Center for Behavioral Safety, LLC

Description of Client and Facility

The Center for Behavioral Safety implemented a Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) process at Newmont Mining Corporation’s Lone Tree Complex, located in Northern Nevada. The Gold Mine is a large above ground facility that employed approximately 500 full-time workers at the time of implementation. The facility had a self-reported history of safety defined by “good years” followed by “bad years.” The Center for Behavioral Safety was asked to change this cycle and help continuously improve the facility’s safety record after a relatively successful year.

General Implementation Procedure

Steering Team
After the Center for Behavioral Safety team toured the facility and spent time reviewing the facility’s injury records, a plan to form the BBS steering team was discussed. The facility asked for volunteers and then selected employees to join the steering team based on the belief that they were “informal leaders,” and would be outspoken in representing their co-workers. The vital role of the steering team was to champion the BBS process and guide relevant decision-making about their process. In the end, front-line employees represented about 70% of the team membership, while the remaining members were middle and upper managers, as well as safety professionals. Management representation was included to allow the team to make decisions that could move forward quickly.

Prior to training the steering team, all site managers participated in an 8-hour workshop in which they learned the basic principles of behavior-based safety as well as what would be asked of the steering team and hourly employees, including the content of their respective workshops. During this planning session, questions about the process were answered and remaining concerns addressed. Additionally, a plan was formed to integrate BBS with other on-going initiatives.

After the planning session with managers, members of the steering team participated in a 3-day workshop. During the first two days, team members received training with interactive exercises on: a) how to understand various factors that impact a safety culture, b) the importance of measuring behavior as an indicator of safety performance, c) the principles of “why people do what they do,” and d) how a positive focus can be used to promote desired changes. Observation and feedback, as a foundation for measuring on-going safety-related behaviors, was also introduced.

During the third day of the workshop, the team used the principles they learned in days one and two to customize the BBS process for their facility. Potential barriers to implementation and solutions to overcome these were also addressed. Because of this intensified BBS training, members of the steering team served as “in-house experts” for the process moving forward. After the steering team members were trained, front-line supervisors and all employees were introduced to the principles of BBS and the specific process designed by their steering team in separate 4-hour workshops. These training sessions were conducted in groups of 25-30.

Workshop Objectives

The objectives of the 4-hour employee workshops were slightly different than those workshops conducted for managers and steering team members. Specifically, the workshop for managers focused on explaining the details and rationale for BBS with a primary purpose of coordinating the implementation and addressing any concerns. Similarly, the workshop for steering team members focused on explaining the details and rationale of BBS. However, the primary objective with steering team members was placed on the construction of the initial process parameters, including a draft of the critical behavior checklist (CBC) they would use to introduce BBS to the workforce. The objective of the employee and supervisor workshops was to obtain buy-in and thus motivate participation from the front-line workers. Finally, the employee workshop was used to teach the use of the CBC designed by the steering team.

Overview of Workshop Content

The content of all workshops emphasized the “DO IT” process (Geller, 1996; The Psychology of Safety). “DO IT” is a four-step problem solving process that teaches employees the principles of the scientific method applied to safety, with a focus on observable behavior. “DO IT” allows employees to tailor BBS to their own work environment and teaches them how to maintain the process within their organization.

Define. The first component of the “DO IT” process, “define,” is the method used to teach employees how to pinpoint safe and at-risk behaviors and hazardous conditions.

Observe. The second component, “observe,” informs employees about how to use a critical behavior checklist (CBC) to measure how often safe versus at-risk behavior occurs. Specifically, the CBC is introduced to employees as a tool for conducting peer-on-peer observations while on the job. The checklist is customized to the needs of the facility by the steering team based on relevance to the incidents they are trying to prevent. It can be modified to fit the changing needs of each organization.

Intervene. During the third component, “intervene,” employees are taught to determine when and how to promote behavior change with a positive focus. Specifically, examples of situations focusing on antecedents (e.g., safety signs) and those focusing on consequences (e.g., positive feedback, recognitions, and rewards) are introduced along with a strategy for determining when one or the other, as an intervention, is appropriate. Furthermore, employees are taught some techniques for providing rewarding and correcting feedback, including how to make feedback behavior-specific and timely.

Test. The last component of the “DO IT” process, “test,” enables employees to determine the effects of their interventions with visual inspection of publicly posted graphs of behavioral data. Most importantly, this process allows employees to continuously monitor their overall safety performance, and to promote change as necessary.

Observation and Feedback Kick-Off and Celebration

After all employees were trained, the facility “kicked-off” the observation process with a celebration consisting of barbeques for each work department and all crews. For practical reasons dictated by crew schedules, the barbeques did not occur all at once, but were held during a single week.

Current Status of the Process

At the time of this report, BBS has been in place at this facility for more than 2 years with little outside help from the Center for Behavioral Safety after the initial implementation. This is testimony to the facility’s commitment to the process and effective use of the techniques introduced in early stages of their Behavior-Based Safety Initiative (BBSI, as it had become named). As seen in the results presented below, the process is healthy, evolving, and is being successfully maintained from within the facility. A key milestone occurred during Year 2 when employee trust in the process allowed the facility to set-up Department Specific steering teams. To date, several behavior-focused interventions have been successfully managed by the steering teams. The impact of these activities has contributed to the success of the process.


Safety Outcomes

The data presented here are a sampling of the results produced at various stages of the process. Figure 1 below shows the Total Medical Rate for the facility before and after implementation of behavior-based safety in April of 2002. Note the upward trend followed by a significant drop in incidents, and then continuous improvement after a relatively good year. This change was precisely what the facility had wanted the Behavior Based Safety Initiative to accomplish. That is, after changing the cycle of “good followed by bad,” behavior-based safety produced a second “good” year in a row. It is noteworthy that this facility was recently awarded a prestigious safety award for most improved safety record.

case study #2 

Relationship of Participation to Total Medical Rate

The facility spent a majority of their time during early phases of the Behavior-Based Safety Initiative increasing the number of observations made by employees. And, they did this with great success! As seen in Figure 2 below, increases in observations were correlated with a decrease in the Total Medical Rate. Strategies used to increase the number of observations included designing department specific observation cards and the creation of area specific teams in Year 2. Effective goal-setting and feedback interventions and behavior-focused incentive/rewards were also strategically used.


Concluding Comments

The gold mining facility documented in this case study is an exemplar in the use of behavior-based safety techniques. They were sensitive to trends in the data and used these measures to choose their next move. For example, it was only after employees had started to “trust” a site-wide process that the Department Specific processes were initiated. Additionally, the facility was effective at maintaining the positive focus of their process and used their knowledge of intervention strategies in a creative manner to keep the process fresh. Finally, their commitment to the overall success of the Behavior-Based Safety Initiative was demonstrated by the ultimate inclusion of BBS measures as part of their formal performance review. It is expected that the facility will continue to lead their industry in the use of behavior-based safety. Evidence of this is their recent award for “Most Improved Safety Record” presented by the Nevada Mining Association.

Published with permission of the Newmont Mining Corporation.