Behavioural safety and why it is good for business

14 August, 2020
Illustration of behavioural safety game

Workplace health and safety covers a multitude of areas. From simple signage to warn of hazards to occupational health and safety training, each provides a crucial link in your organisation’s health and safety culture. One of the most significant – but often overlooked – elements in any health and safety programme is Behavioural Safety. But what exactly is it? Put very simply, it is the process of encouraging your staff to adopt better, safer ways of doing their job.

Just one part of a wider programme

Research has shown that some 80% of work-related accidents are caused by employee behaviour [HSE 2003]. These may be deliberate actions, such as cutting corners to get a job done more quickly, turning a blind eye, or it is just the way a job has always been done and nobody has thought about doing it any differently. Alternatively, it could simply be a lack of awareness of a risk or a misunderstanding. Whatever the reason, putting all the onus on workers’ behaviour can often mask the fact that the final, unsafe act may well be the last in a chain of poorly-managed events. Therefore, behavioural safety needs to be looked at in conjunction with an organisation’s health and safety management as a whole.

How does Behavioural Safety work?

Behaviour-based safety programmes have been around since the 1970s. They are widely used in a variety of sectors, particularly high-risk industries such as construction, nuclear energy, oil & gas. Safety is a social activity – one person’s behaviour can affect many. So, behavioural safety aims to improve health and safety in the workplace by changing the thinking and subsequent behaviour of workers. It is a process that focuses people’s attention on their own (and others’) behaviours and how they impact on the safety of themselves, their colleagues and customers. It recognises that workers have a genuine interest in their own wellbeing and that of others. The aim is to change unsafe or uncaring behaviour into safe behaviour. More than that, you want your safety culture to engender safe behaviours within your workforce not simply because they have to comply but because they feel part of the process. A well thought through safety culture will seek to improve an organisation’s safety performance by

  • identifying risks to life, health and wellbeing
  • eliminating these risks where practicable
  • reducing these risks if they cannot be eliminated
  • identifying poor practice
  • searching for innovative solutions and workforce input
  • substituting poor practice with good practice
  • reducing unsafe behaviours
  • recognising, rewarding and reinforcing safe behaviours

Why is Behavioural Safety good for business?

A Behavioural Safety programme should reduce all instances of job-related injury, from minor to critical injuries. This includes accidents or ill-health as a result of continued bad practice. The benefits of this to any organisation are manifold. An effective Behavioural Safety culture will

  • reduce near misses, accidents, injuries and fatalities
  • minimise lost time
  • reduce operating costs
  • improve productivity
  • increase profitability
  • improve morale, communications and staff confidence
  • reduce insurance premiums
  • improve public image

Managers who demonstrate a concern for their workers’ wellbeing, and engage them in finding innovative safety solutions, show that they care. They set their people up to succeed. These managers tend to be very successful at positively improving performance. It is also well known that organisations who do right by their staff also tend to do the right thing by their customers. The strength of customer opinion should never be underestimated.

The Safety Game®

The Big Picture People are synonymous with behavioural health and safety interventions, helping to align your ongoing strategy with your company culture. Our bespoke Learning Maps and Interactive Board Games are an upbeat, interesting way for your organisation to build behavioural safety awareness across your workforce. They break down barriers and positively encourage interaction and everyday, adult conversation at all levels within the organisation. Your own bespoke Safety Game makes your safety culture approachable and, above all, fun. These are tools aimed at adventurous, innovative H&S managers who recognise that their staff are a vital part of any safety programme/solution. A Safety Game is a proven mechanic to consolidate your organisation’s brand, themes and culture – then align these with your safety strategy.

Why you need a strong Behavioural Safety culture

Behavioural safety is a proven and effective way of positively impacting safety behaviour, thereby reducing or eliminating accidents and dangers to long term health. To work effectively, it has to become part of your company culture. It also needs to involve every person within the organisation. Every individual should feel involved in the process. They then take ownership of it, inspiring best practice in themselves and others rather than just complying.

Organisations with a strong safety culture tend to manage their operations well too. Operational and safety excellence tend to go hand in hand.

The bottom line

Behavioural Safety processes are known to provide a significant return on investment by reducing incidents and downtime, eliminating system faults and increasing overall productivity – something all organisations strive for.

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