Behavioural Safety in the workplace
Unsafe acts are the most common cause of workplace accidents.
The reason for this is that unsafe acts involve the Human Factor, that is, they occur as a result of people’s attitudes and behaviours. Behavioural Safety offers a way to reduce the incidence of unsafe acts by modifying people’s behaviours and improving their attitudes towards safety.
Behavioural Safety and the need for Health and Safety Training
Statistics show that unsafe acts are the most common cause of workplace accidents. Despite the introduction of training programs and safe work practices and procedures, controlling unsafe acts has proven to be difficult. The reason for this is that an unsafe act involves a Human Factor, that is, accidents occur as a result of people’s attitudes and behaviours. Behavioural Safety offers a way to reduce the incidence of unsafe actions by modifying people’s behaviours and improving their attitudes towards safety.
Why is Behavioural safety in the workplace so important
Scientific research and Accident Investigation have shown that more than 90% of accidents, injuries or illnesses that occur in the workplace occur due to the Human Factors of an accidental occurence. These Human factors involve behaviours that lead to slips, trips and falls, workplace harrasment, social or sexual harrasment, ignoring of safety procedures due to stress reactions, tiredness and fatigue as well as drugs and alcohol in the workplace. Some of these behavioural characteristics can reach a flashpoint causing sudden and violent actions and reactions in the workplace, endangering all those close by.
Sometimes the source of Psychosocial stress factors are not work related at all but are present in a workers personal life, trouble at home or with family.
Whatever the reason for the presence of stress primarily it causes workers to behave in careless or unusual ways, making behaviour potentially dangerous or threatening.
Under such circumstances these kinds of actions can be said to be unsafe, potentially causing harm, to others in the workplace.
Therefore it is essential to learn to recognize when behavior becomes dangerous and consciously try to manage your stress. In these circumstances everyone must look out for everyone else to ensure their collective safety. Observe you colleagues behaviour, listen to what they say and how they say it, understanding, empathy and tolerance are good methods to look out for ones own safety as well as those of you work mates.
Unsafe behaviours incorporate such simple actions as, ducking under or climbing over assembly lines to reach the controls, not holding the handrail when ascending/descending stairs, rushing and hurrying from one task to the next, not putting equipment away after completing a job, etc., are all unsafe behaviours and in the direct control of the person engaging in them.
These Human factors seem to be so easy to control, and yet, it is so easy to be forgetful when caught up in the daily pressures and stresses of the working day.
Being safe within your workplace is very important to productivity and morale, so important that it has become law.
Why is Behavioural Safety in the workplace so hard to talk about ?
Given all the different areas of workplace Health and Safety pratices, Behavioural Safety appears to be the most problematic to successfully implement. Research into this one subject alone has been ongoing since the 1930's and it seems to yeild consistent conclusions, and yet it is still one of the most problematic to implement.
In writing this, I have found that Behavioural safety has certainly been challenging to research.
Behavioural Safety is difficult to find information on the specific kinds of hazards in the workpalce, and cause of accidents for which it is responsible.
Why is that ?
Is it because the Human Factors that make up Behavioural Safety brings up issues that are so fundamental to Human nature, that the issues raised are often of a sensitive and personal nature, making it hard to confront a problem once identified ?
History has proven through all the different spheres of Human activity that the hardest thing for Humans to do, is to get along with other Humans.
How to implement successful Behavioural Safety training programmes.
Behavioural Safety training when appropriately implemented has big pay-off's for both workers and management alike. Research has shown that companies that have correctly implemented a successful Behavioural Safety program have seen accident rates fall by between 40% and 70%. This is good for all the workers who would have been hurt and therefore good for the company as a whole.
Research has found that a successful Behavioural Safety programme should meet the following essential criteria
- It must involve significant workforce participation.
- This means that a those workers most likey to engage in unsafe behaviour or to be injured must be actively engaged in eliminationg or regulating any unsafe behaviour. Without widespread, active workforce participation, ownership and commitment to the Behavioural Safety programme, the initiative will likey fail.
- The Behavioural Safety Programme must target specific unsafe behaviours.
- Successful Behavioural Safety Programmes target those unsafe behaviours responsible for most of the accidents and injuries that occur in a given workplace. The significant unsafe behaviours can be discovered by a historical analysis of a companies accident and injury reports. Sometimes it can even be a management policy that serves as a trigger for an unsafe behaviour. Whatever the cause, it must be addressed. Once a list of unsafe behaviours has been discovered it should be categorized, named (ie. Housekeeping, Use of Tools, Line of Fire, Personal Protective Equipment, etc.), written up onto a form or checklist and submitted to the workforce for approval. This will allow the maximum workforce participation to assume ownership of the Safety Initiatives.
- The Behavioural Safety Programme should be based on Observational data.
- Behaviour should be observed on a regular basis and results recorded in the form of a metric ie a percentage of successfully performed actions out of a total of actions performed. Observation performed at regular intervals yeilds more reliable information, but must be done with regard to the fact that the observer observed will invariably produce a false positive (ie a worker about to perform an unsafe action will change to a safe action if they know they are observed). The collection of data in the form of a metric has been proven to be very good method of determining which particular proceedures lead to unsafe beahviour patterns in a given process.
- The Beahvioural Safety Programme must be systematically implemented.
- Successfull behavioural initiatives are a composed of a sequence of planned and announced events, involving all levels of the workforce who are to implement the behavioural safety programme. Workers are asked to volunteer to be trained as observers or members of a steering commitee, the project team then determines the checklist of those behaviours that are the focus of the programme. The checklist is then subject to the approval of those that are to be observed to ensure that all levels of the workforce are in agreement with the nature of the positive changes ahead. An observation period is announced, usually about 4 weeks. Once a baseline is established the results are published in a public place and meetings are announced in order to establish goals for improvement.
These proceedures should be repeated on a regular basis and results published in a public space, improvements are praised and corrective measures can be taken. In this way Behavioural Safety systems incorporate continual improvement and are self correcting.
- The Behavioural Programme must be subject to regular, focussed Feedback.
- Feedback is the primary component of any self regulating and self correcting system of improvement. Within behavioural safety initiatives Feedback usually takes on three forms: Verbal feedback to all participants at the time of observation; Graphical feedback in the form of graphs and charts placed in prominent places around the workplace; and regular meetings to discuss the resultant progress of the behavioural safety programme. These methods in combination allow a consistent improvement to take place.
- Visible and on-going support from both Management and Workforce should be demonstrated.
- Support for the behavioural initiative must be evident as this commitment is vital to the successful continuation of the programme. Praise and recognition for all those performing safe actions and necessary resources devoted to correct unsafe actions must be delegated. Parties from both Management and the Workforce must be active participants in the regular feedback sessions and generally promote the initiative at every opportunity without being tedious. Research has shown that the Behavioural Safety Programmes that Fail do so due to a lack of commitment and support from Management.
- Relevant to this article
- Behavioural Safety Training Programmes in the workplace
- Slips, Trips and Falls in the Workplace
- Violence Awareness and Personal Security in the workplace
- Fatigue, Tiredness and Lethargy in the workplace
- Drugs and Alcohol in the workplace
- Unsafe Acts in the workplace
- Workplace Safety training and the Human Factor
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