Behaviour-Based Safety: Panacea or Pariah?
School of Architecture and Construction
University of Greenwich
Ever since Komaki et al (1978) demonstrated improvements in safety performance of 22-26% by using behavioural modification techniques there has been a growing level of interest in behavioural-based safety (BBS) initiatives Fleming & Lardner (2002). Initiatives such as DuPont’s Safety Training Observation Programme (DuPont) and JMJ Associates Incident and Injury Free Programme (JMJ Associates) have sought to improve safety performance by implementing BBS initiatives.
The reception received by these initiatives has been varied from some Trade Unions taking the view that “Behavioural safety is based on the wrong premise” (Trades Union Congress, 2010) to a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report stating that “Promoting safe behaviour at work is a critical part of the management of health and safety” (Fleming & Lardner, p1).
The purpose of this paper is to review a sample of the literature available on the topic, evaluate if these wide-ranging views can be reconciled and to determine if BBS is the answer to the accident problem or if more work is needed in other areas. It will draw conclusions and recommend areas for improvement if necessary.
The working environment, particularly in the western world, has become a much safer place to work over the last 100 years ago. However, there is an underlying level of accidents that has remained relatively constant over the last 10-20 years (HSE). This is despite increased regulation, improved working conditions and changes to the types of work undertaken.
A number of accident investigations have demonstrated a human element to these accidents (Hale, 2000). The reasoning behind BBS is that by changing human behaviours you will remove all or some of these human elements thereby reducing accident rates.
What is BBS?
BBS aims to prevent accidents by changing the behaviour of the people most likely to have an accident, workers on the front-line. The main way of doing this is to observe the workers whilst they carry out their normal duties and then given them feedback on the whether or not they were working safely.
Whilst the actual programme used differs from company to company we can also identify many similarities. These have been summarised by Fleming & Lardner (2002) as: 1) Assessing the readiness of the company for implementation 2) Achieving buy-in to the initiative
3) Conducting training
4) Specifying the behaviours that need to be changed
5) Establishing a base-line level of the current organisation 6) Carrying out observations of working behaviours
7) Providing feedback
8) Setting goals
9) Modifying the working environment
10) Monitor performance
11) Review list of behaviours
Not all BBS programmes carried out every stage in the process identified above (e.g. not all initiatives set targets).
From this list the key components of the BBS programmes were item 6 carrying out the safety observations and item 7 providing feedback.
The Case for Implementation
Lees & Austin (2011) make the case for BBS within the construction sector and in particular challenged the belief that “It is irresponsible to think that just creating and publishing a set of rules will deliver various human behaviours”. It points out that despite the number of major and fatal construction injuries falling, construction in the UK is still a high-risk environment. Although laws and regulations are important in managing safety it concluded that they need to be combined with processes that motivate people to follow the policies and procedures that are already in place.
It recognises the main criticisms of BBS as a “blame...
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