Workplace safety involves a three tiered approach:
- Engineering controls – eliminate, reduce, or guard the hazard.
- Administrative controls – change schedules and work practices to reduce exposure to the hazard.
- Personal Protective Equipment – protect individuals from the effects of the hazard.
Behavior Based Safety is in the category of administrative controls.
Behavior Based Safety Defined
Behavior Based Safety approaches to safety focus on systematically studying the effects of various interventions on safety-related target behaviors. BBS interventions modify either events before the behavior (antecedents or prompts) or the events that occur after behavior (consequences). For example, being late for work may prime a person to speed. The consequences of speeding may be desirable (get to work on time) or undesirable (receive a speeding ticket). Behaviors followed by desirable consequences are more likely to be repeated in the future and those followed by undesirable consequences are less likely to be repeated in the future.
Behavior Based Safety focuses on what people do, and analyzes how and why they do it. This information is then used to improve how people do things, changing their behavior such that their work practices are safer. Behavior Based Safety typically involves seven elements:
- Identify behaviors that affect safety.
- Describe the behaviors and determine a system for measuring them.
- Measure the behaviors and document the current status.
- Establish goals for changed behaviors.
- Implement new standards for behaviors to achieve the stated goals.
- Measure the new behaviors and provide feedback.
- Sustain the changes.
Typically, Behavior Based Safety involves intervention – someone observes the work being done, analyzes the various behaviors used to accomplish the task, and determines what behaviors need to be changed to improve safety.
Behavior Based Safety – Job Safety Analysis
One way to collect the information for Based Safety is to perform a Job Safety Analysis, or "JSA". A JSA divides a job into a collection of tasks, each involving a limited number of steps. Each task is then observed to determine what the worker does, what tools they use, what the work environment is like, and the specific motions and actions the task requires. Hazards are identified, and are then addressed with engineering controls, administrative controls, or protective equipment.
The JHA approach fits very well with Behavior Based Safety, because it involves an outside person (or team) observing and analyzing a job. At times it takes someone from the outside to see where improvements can be made. People easily get into the habit of thinking that, “This is the way we've always done things,” thinking it must be the best way.
Behavior Based Safety – Kaizen
A common misunderstanding is that lean methods, such as Kaizen, cannot be easily combined with Behavior Based Safety. However, they can work well together.
Kaizen is an approach in which the people doing the work identify problems and make suggestions to eliminate those problems. This means workers make suggestions for changing their own behavior. Why don't they just start doing their job differently instead of making a suggestion, and waiting for that suggestion to be approved? Because another important principle of Kaizen is that work should be done using written standards. The standards ensure that the best work practices (best behaviors) are used by everyone doing the same task. Standards also eliminate variability; a consistent process is easier to evaluate for further improvements.
With Kaizen the person doing the work becomes the one who intervenes to improve their own behaviors.
When people are put in control of a process that visibly contributes to preventing themselves and others from getting hurt, they feel responsible. They go beyond the call of duty to make the process work. Working together this way boosts morale, trust, belonging, and optimism. Obviously the organization benefits as do those individuals experiencing these feelings.
The Kaizen method does not eliminate the measurement and testing phase of Behavior Based Safety. Employee suggestions need to be evaluated, and tested to determine if they have a positive benefit. In addition, Kaizen places a major emphasis on using written standards. This is also important for Behavior Based Safety to be effective. The best safety behaviors must be incorporated into written standards that describe how the task or job is to be done.
Behavior Based Safety – Standards
Some people look at the use of written standards as being stifling and restrictive. However, it is just the opposite. Standards free workers from having to constantly plan and re-plan mundane activities, and allow workers to be creative and invent further improvements.
Standards also are necessary if behavior changes are going to be sustained. By establishing new behaviors that can be measured, future behaviors can be measured and compared with the standard. This will maintain consistency and preserve the improvements that have been made.
Standards are also used to communicate the desired behaviors and work practices to others. For example, there may be five work stations that do the same type of work. Ideas for improvements can be implemented at one of the work stations, testing the new ideas to determine their effectiveness. If the changes result in an improvement, they should be documented in a standard that is used to change behavior at the other four work stations.
Behavior Based Safety – Visual Communication
Changing behavior involves changing habits, and despite the best intentions, that can be difficult. Using visual communication tools such as labels and signs plays a crucial role in changing behavior. These visual cues provide reminders, at the physical location where they are most needed, about new work practices and behaviors. Any time there is a change in processes, using labels and signs for support will help achieve a smoother, more efficient change in behavior.
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