The Role of Behavior Based Safety

Behavior-based safety (BBS) is a process used to improve overall workplace safety through focusing on the daily behaviors of workers. The goal of BBS is to guide workers towards safer behaviors in the workplace. There are several steps involved in a behavior-based safety program. These include:

  • Checklist: making a checklist for behaviors that should be observed
  • Observation: The employee conducting the observation should observe employees engaging in behaviors listed on the checklist and record their findings
  • Feedback: sharing the findings
  • Goals: creating a plan to increase safe behaviors and decrease unsafe behaviors.

Behaviors that may be reviewed under BBS must be observable (not based on opinions or interpretations of an employee’s behavior), observed by at least two people, and something that an employee has control over. When creating the checklist, it is important to make sure that the behaviors observed are measurable. For example, the observer could note that out of X number of employees, only 40% are wearing proper PPE. Behaviors included in the checklist can be taken from safety audits, toolbox talks, incident and near-miss reports, and/or other safety-related materials.

Observers should be trained to conduct on-site safety audits and have experience with the tasks that they are observing.

Feedback should be provided both during and after the observation. It is important to describe behaviors positively, for example by saying what should be done as opposed to what shouldn’t be done. When discussing the behaviors of employees, positive behaviors should be recognized and rewarded. Consequences of both safe and unsafe behaviors should be discussed with employees. For unsafe behaviors, corrective feedback should be given. Corrective feedback should be used to provide an alternative to unsafe behaviors by giving the employee(s)

Once feedback is provided to employees, a plan that outlines safety goals for employee behavior should be developed. Examples of goals included in a BBS plan may include items such as increasing the number of employee wearing proper PPE by a certain percentage, lowering the number of near-misses, and other attainable goals . Standards for behavior should be clearly laid out. As the goal of a BBS program is to encourage employees to engage in safe behavior, it may be helpful to remind employees of the positive consequences of safe behaviors, as well as the consequences of unsafe behaviors.

A successful BBS program will reduce unsafe behaviors in the workplace and encourage employees to engage in safer behaviors. By setting clear and reachable goals based on observations within the workplace, BBS programs can make meaningful impacts on safety culture that are tailored to each individual workplace.