Greg has been working at a manufacturing plant in Toronto for the past six months. After logging in for an overnight shift one evening, he walked into the production facility to find a combustible substance unattended on the floor.
He informed his supervisor, who called in a materials handler, clad in protective gear to remove the chemical so the shift could begin.
The entire process took over 45 minutes, but Greg clearly remembered the instructions from his recent safety training. No employee handles chemical products without the proper training—instead, inform a supervisor.
Of course, it would have been easier to just clean up the material himself, or put it aside for someone to pick it up later. But he knew that was risky and dangerous—not just for himself, but for the entire facility. Thanks to Greg, his company is safer today.
Greg’s story, although fictional, is a great example of behavior-based safety (BBS) done right in the workplace. It also illustrates just how important it is to properly train workers and supervisors in safe practices.
With over 200,000 claims last year relating to workplace injury, illness or death, there is real value in starting behavior-based safety programs. Human error is inevitable, especially in the tough working environments found in construction and manufacturing. That’s why deploying BBS programs is critical in reducing and minimizing the risk to all staff.
What does behavior-based safety mean?
Behavior-based safety is defined as the process of building partnerships between supervisors and workers in a way that promotes safety by focusing on people’s actions and behaviors. Whether it’s something as simple as wearing rubber boots when entering a certain part of a facility, or following strict protocol for the handling certain equipment, everyone has a part to play in creating a safe work environment under the BBS program.
A culture that promotes behavior-based safety is a management system that focuses on employees’ attention and actions. It also involves organizations studying and measuring daily safety behaviors that can increase risk, and providing observational data to encourage change. Not only does this ensure the safety and well-being of workers, it also results in positive long-term benefits!
A study conducted by the Center for Behavioral Safety concluded that BBS drastically improves productivity levels. Carried out in a manufacturing facility with over 400 employees, the study noted an average of 10.9 work days per month lost to workplace injuries. In contrast, after BBS was implemented, that number dropped to roughly 1.5 days per month. Not only did behavior-based safety contribute to a drastic change in productivity, it also created a secure work environment for workers. Talk about continuous improvement!
5 steps to a successful behavior-based safety program
When done correctly, introducing a BBS program can create positive change in a company’s safety culture. The following are five simple steps for implementing the program:
- Observe behavior: In this initial stage, supervisors gather as much data as possible on employee habits to understand the what, when, where, and how of work-related safety problems. This includes analyzing both safe and unsafe behaviors to spot trends and opportunities.
- Analyze data: After collecting the necessary information, supervisors study the data to understand which habits need to be adjusted to effect a positive change that leads to a safer work culture.
- Generate solutions: Once a problem has been identified, it’s crucial to come up with ways to reduce the risk.Involving employees in the decision-making process and allowing them to offer solutions is more likely to create change and impart a greater sense of responsibility on all parties involved.
- Change behavior: This is where supervisors test the proposed solution on their front line workers, making adjustments as necessary, and promoting the new behavior among managers and employees.
- Evaluate: At this stage, supervisors are able to assess if the change has been completely implemented, and is in fact effective.
Following these simple steps is a great way to get started on putting a BBS program into practice. However, true change takes a sense of self-awareness and accountability from employees at all levels.
Safety by leadership
Safety starts at the top. Unless employees see leaders invested in promoting a safe culture, they rarely feel compelled to adhere to safety protocols or take safety behaviors seriously. It’s the supervisors’ and managers’ responsibility to implement safety standards and ensure that the right information is communicated to their staff.
Employees are likely to work safely and go the extra mile to protect themselves—and those around them—once they are provided training. Help make them aware of their accountability for avoiding unsafe acts, and know what is expected from them to contribute to a safe work culture.
Practical safety tips for managers and employees
Managers and employees are both equally responsible for creating a safe workplace environment. While it’s the employer’s duty to offer the necessary safety training and equipment to keep workers safe, employees must also acknowledge and abide by specific rules that protect them from illness or injury at work.
Following are some great examples of safe behavior that employees should be encouraged to follow:
- Always wear protective gear when working in facilities or on sites that are hazardous or pose some form of risk.
- Keep workstations clear and put away all equipment in its designated spot.
- Follow a safety checklist, where applicable, to ensure you have followed the right procedure to perform a certain task.
- Ask questions (if you are unsure) about handling certain equipment or chemical materials.
- Ask for training and resources to help complete the job safely.
Supervisors can also contribute to creating a safer workplace with these simple tips:
- Assign safe work assignments and take feasible precautions to safeguard workers from illness and/or injury.
- Provide timely maintenance on equipment and keep a clean house (mess-free workstations).
- Communicate with workers about job hazards and provide them with appropriate training to complete their jobs safely. This can be done by posting signs around the facility or job site warning workers about potential hazards and providing workers the tools and resources to protect themselves.
- Offer complete supervision to assure workers are using and operating all equipment in a safe manner, and wearing protective devices where required.
- Make your toolbox talks engaging for employees!
If you'd like help implementing a behaviour-based safety program in your workplace, contact us today