Guide to Behavioural Safety

Regardless of the nature of the job, all employees work in environments which could lead to an accident or injury, either through unsafe actions on their part or because the workplace itself is an unsafe environment.

Health and safety regulations exist to protect workers from hazards in these unsafe environments and organisations are duty-bound to put safeguards. However, these safeguards are only effective if employees following health and safety guidelines, otherwise, their unsafe behaviours could lead to accidents too. This is an increasing issue for many health and safety professionals, which is why behavioural safety has become such a hot topic of conversation.

Health and Safety in the Workplace

Workplace health and safety is something that is often left unmentioned outside of HR yet it is a vital part of every organisation. Its role in the workplace is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of workers and prevent any harm that they could incur as a result of their day-to-day duties.

In the UK, health and safety training in the workplace is the legal obligation of employers. They must not only create a safe environment for their employees but also for anyone who the business deals with including contractors, customers, and visitors if the premises are ones which are open to them. In order to comply with the various legislation which governs workplace health and safety in the UK, organisations must take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of their workers. This is usually done by carrying out regular risk assessments and having a health and safety policy in place.

What is Behavioural Safety?

Behavioural safety is a term that is probably new to most people, but it is one that has been around for years in the context of workplace health and safety. The behaviour based safety (BBS) approach is based on academic theories of behavioural change. This area of health and safety is characterised by a bottom-up approach which focuses on frontline employees while securing buy-in from the senior team and top-down support from specifically trained safety leaders within organisations.

Behavioural change approach to safety recognises the fact individuals are invested in their own safety and, with the right training, can adapt safer long-term behaviours. It also tackles health and safety issues by approaching them on an individual level, rather than taking the traditional top-down approach to safety. This approach also incorporates observation of employees as they carry out their day-to-day tasks in order to identify any good or bad safety-related behaviours. This observation is then used in feedback sessions where individuals are coached on how to adopt the correct behaviours to protect their own safety as well as the safety of others in the workplace.

How a Behaviour Based Safety Programme Works

Once employee observation, goal setting, and feedback session have all taken place, the next part of this approach is actually implementing a behaviour based safety programme for individuals to follow.

The first step is for the designated safety leaders within an organisation to evaluate accident reports and any noted near misses. These, along with with the data from individual observations can be used to build the foundation of which specific areas or task the programme will need to address. Once the data has been analysed, safety leaders should then look for any negative behaviours which contributed to these incidents and what positive behaviours can be implemented in order to reduce the number of future incidents or injuries.

Once the relevant positive and negative behaviours have been identified, they are then used to create an easy to follow system or checklist. Employees should then be observed using this and the effect it has on their behaviour. In theory, by identifying the positive behaviours in a specific safety situation and presenting these as a guide for employees to follow, should over time create a change in their behaviour.

After the programme has been put in place, along with an effective measurement system, ongoing observation and feedback sessions can be used to measure the success of the behaviour based safety programme.

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