Behavior Based Safety: What Is It and Why Could It Be Right for My Organization?

Behavior based safety, also known as observational safety, is a theory and process that has been around for a number of years, during which it has been addressed by many of the forward thinking minds of the safety industry. These individuals have looked at methods for organizations to influence the behavioral aspect of workplace safety.

Here are three questions to ask about the safety program at your organization:

  1. Do you have your OSHA compliance down to the point where your workplace safety inspections are very good or excellent?
  2. Do your incident investigations regularly identify the employee as the major source of an incident?
  3. Do you feel your organization is lucky or good?

As an organization's safety program matures to the point where they have very good or excellent compliance with OSHA and other standards, they often look for further opportunities to advance workplace safety; to incorporate best practices to become a 'world class' safety organization. Behavior based safety is one of those opportunities to look at what your employees are actually doing when working within your workplace and how those actions contribute to the overall safety of your organization.

When we look at an incident, we look at the usual suspects: the employee and the work environment. Typically, compliance based safety addresses the work environment aspect of the incident. Was machine guarding in place? Was the employee properly trained? Was there adequate lockout tagout protection?

The element that is often overlooked is the detailed assessment of what the employee behaviors were and how the surrounding system contributed to influencing those behaviors. Have you seen 'inattention to surroundings' or 'employee was taking a short cut' or 'employee failed to follow procedures' as some of the root causes identified during an incident investigation? If 'yes', then your organization might be interested in exploring a behavior based safety system for your organization.

For the last question, organizations may have very few or no workplace incidents, but do they have sufficient knowledge and systems in place to monitor the activities of their employees and know for certain that the behaviors taking place contribute to the overall safety of the workplace? If 'no' then exploring a behavior based safety system may be in your best interests.

Register to attend MEMIC's webinar on Thursday, December 10th at 10:00 a.m. (EST) entitled "Behavior Based Safety - and is it for me?".  This one-hour webinar will cover the background of what is Behavior Based Safety, can it work for your organization, and what is needed to do/have in place to begin a behavior based safety system.