What is Behavior Safety?

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Behavior based safety process

What is behavior safety?

Everybody who works to reduce accidents and improve safe performance is concerned with human behavior. “Behavior and accidents is what it’s all about,” is a commonly heard phrase.

While behavioral safety shares a concern with human behavior and safe performance in the workplace with other approaches, it is more than that. behavioral safety is the application of behavioral research on human performance to the problems of safety in the workplace. This means that any safety program labeling itself as a behavioral safety program must meet the standards of behavior analytic research as practices are applied to the workplace.

Behavior-based safety is a promising technology for industry. It is an excellent tool for collecting data on the quality of a company’s safety management system. It is a scientific way to understand why people behave the way they do when it comes to safety. If it is properly applied, it is also an effective next step towards creating a truly pro-active safety culture where loss prevention is a core value. However, behavior-based safety is conceptually easy to understand but often hard to implement and sustain.

Figure 1. behavior and safety

How does Behavioral Safety work?

Behavior analysis is the science of behavior change. Applied behavior analysis is the application of the science of behavior change to real world problems. As we do this, we are looking for functional or systematic relationships between •Environmental changes, i.e., the stimuli or cues that lead to behavior •The behavior itself, such as specific areas of work performance •And the consequences of behavior, i.e., the positive or negative responses that occur immediately after a person performs a particular work task.

These relationships have been exhaustively studied in the laboratories. Applied behavior analysis applies the lessons learned in laboratory research to the challenges of human behavior in everyday life. In this case, to build safe practices in the workplace, sound behavioral safety programs include the following basic steps:

1.Behaviorally specify the desirable performance.
For example, if we want to improve safe practices in a certain workplace, we first specify as behaviorally as possible, those practices. For example, correct forklift operation or lifting behavior. Or, we may specify the outcomes that are achieved if safe practices are performed. For example, a shop floor that is free of hazards such as wires or oil slicks that could trip an employee and cause a fall. The process of specifying these criteria for good performance results in a measuring instrument that can be used to periodically sample safety performance in the workplace and measure human performance.

2.Measure safety performance.
Using the criteria for safe workplace performance, we periodically sample and measure safety performance against those criteria. These measurements are recorded and become part of a data base; a cumulative log of performance for each workplace.

3.Shape safe performance through feedback and other consequences. Behavioral research on learning teaches us powerful lessons about how to teach and build performance improvement. First among these lessons is the power of consequences. Consequences shape performance. One very powerful consequence is feedback on workplace performance. Properly designed and used, performance feedback will produce learning and positive performance changes - often very dramatically.

As a practical matter, once measurement takes place, a sound behavioral safety program will provide timely, usually immediate, feedback on workplace safety behavior to the employees whose workplace is being observed. It will not be delayed for lengthy periods of time. In addition, feedback will focus on positive gains in performance, not negative performance decrements. It will be predictable and certain. And, it will be...
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