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What Organizations Often Get Wrong With Behavior-Based Safety Programs

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March 7, 2022

4 Minutes


     Dina Adlouni

Dina is the resident Content Writer at EcoOnline North America . When she’s not writing about health and safety, you’ll find her enjoying a cup of tea while watching her favorite sitcom.

Why Behavior-Based Safety is Important

A successful behavior-based safety program can help reduce incidents and injuries, as well as improve worker safety and participation. When an organization has a system in place to track and analyze the factors influencing risky decision making, this data can be leveraged to better educate employees on safety best practices and empower them to make safe decisions. 

But first, let’s start with the basics…  

What is Behavior-Based Safety

Behavior-based safety is a process where employers assess behaviors conducted by employees on the jobsite through observations, to evaluate workplace safety. It is also a way in which employers can pinpoint root causes behind certain types of behavior to understand why they are occurring. These observations are called behavior-based safety observations (BBSO). Employers are responsible for conducting these behaviors and working with employees to implement the necessary corrective actions to rectify any unsafe behaviors observed.    

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3 Things Organizations Often Get Wrong

To help you get the most out of your behavior-based safety program, we want to take a closer look at three common challenges organizations face when implementing a behavior-based safety program and how to overcome them. 

1. Focusing solely on the negative

A challenge many employers face is focusing solely on the negative when conducting behavior-based safety observations. If employees are fearful of being reprimanded or terminated for pointing out unsafe aspects of a job site, they will be less likely to report hazards which will ultimately increase the frequency of workplace incidents.  

BBSO’s should not be thought of as a chance to point out what employees are doing wrong, but what they are doing right! Employers must understand why employees are doing things the right way, to properly communicate this action or method to others and this must be continuously reinforced with the team.  

Employers should also use this as an opportunity to commend employees for practicing safe behaviors seen during the observation. Implementing a behavior-based safety program that’s built on a celebratory safety culture will help employees speak up when they see something amiss, which will help reduce risks and hazards and create a safer work environment.  

2. Considering quantity, not quality

Certain organizations are incentivized to conduct several BBSO’s to fulfill a certain quota. Rather than focusing on the quantity of observations, management should focus on the quality of these observations to help reach the larger goal of a stronger safety program.  

For example, an element some organizations often miss is getting to the root cause of the unsafe behavior observed, hurting the overall quality of the observation. It’s important to note that a behavior-based safety program can easily backfire if the safety onus is shifted entirely onto the employee, as a multitude of factors must be considered when looking at root cause analysis.  

A successful safety culture requires participation across all levels of the organization, from management to front-line workers. This means that rather than simply blaming and shaming employees for unsafe behavior, employers must also do their part to minimize risk by educating employees about the potential hazards associated with their role, regularly conducting hazard assessments, and ensuring the workforce is correctly trained before sending them out on the job. 

3. A lack of employee empowerment to boost engagement rates

One of the key elements of a safe work environment is a workforce which is engaged and invested in safety. With that in mind, it’s not surprising behavior-based safety programs often fail due to a lack of worker participation. 

As the employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that safety is top of mind for your workers out in the field and make sure they feel like valued contributors to your company’s safety culture. Empowering your workers to become engaged safety advocates starts with facilitating open, two-way communication between on-site employees and your management team.  

When safety issues do arise in the field, workers must be able to easily identify and communicate them to leadership so they can be resolved quickly together. Letting workers know their input is valuable and that they have a vital role to play in creating a safe working environment, will help to boost participation rates in safety activities and improve overall safety culture.  

How EcoOnline Can Help

The EcoOnline EHS management solution can help strengthen your organization’s behavior-based safety program through its robust capabilities. Empower your people by giving them the ability to easily conduct BBSO’s directly from their mobile device and share results with management. This way, both can act quickly together to reduce risks and hazards on-site, creating a safer work environment for all.

To find out more about how we can support your safety needs, speak to one of our safety experts today 

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