Behavior-Based Safety

Resources - Behavior-Based Safety

Best Practices in Behavior-Based Safety

Background of Behavior-Based Safety

Behavioral science traces its inception to a merging of different fields of science in one individual: a medical doctor who held a university chair in Philosophy in 1876. Behavior-based safety (BBS) brings together parts of behavioral science with industrial safety to create a "new" process to promote safety as an organizational value.

In the 1930's, Heinrich reported that about 90% of all accidents involving fatalities, major and minor injuries were caused by "unsafe behavior" by workers. Subsequent studies by DuPont (1956) confirmed Heinrich's contention. In the 1970's and 1980's, this was expanded to include near misses and Behavior Based Safety added "unsafe or at-risk behaviors." Traditional engineering and management approaches to counter this (such as automation, procedure compliance, administrative controls, and OSHA-type standards and rules) were successful in reducing the number of accidents significantly. However, incidents and accidents persisted, keeping rates at a level that was still disturbing to customers, managers, and workers.

Developed in the late 1970s, BBS has had an impressive record. Research has shown that, as safe behaviors increase, safety incidents decrease. Measurement of "percent safe acts" is a leading safety indicator. In contrast, most safety measures are lagging measures, which are recorded after the incident (e.g., OSHA recordable cases).

Ample Anecdotal evidence also exists to indicate that measurement of "percentage or safe behaviors" is predictive. In other cases, the changes in the rate were acted upon, stopping the unsafe trend. In some cases the trend was not acted upon and an accident happened within a short period of time. Connelly (1997) claimed that some people he worked with felt that a change in the Safe Acts Index (% Safe Acts) was a three-week predictor of an accident. This means that the observation and feedback techniques of BBS may be used to predict that safety problems may be growing in your facility. Intensifying the BBS observation cycle will often prevent an injury or accident.

Behavior-Based Safety in DOE

DOE sites are employing a growing number of BBS processes, each with it's own specific orientation and techniques. Despite these variations, all BBS processes have four major components:

  1. investigation of the antecedents to at-risk behavior
  2. the observation process
  3. action plans to influence at-risk behaviors and conditions
  4. feedback

Within the federal Department of Energy (DOE), BBS has been instituted at sites such as the Savannah River Site (SRS), Pantex, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), and national laboratories such as Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), and Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL). In all cases, implementing the behavioral safety process has led to an increase in safe behaviors and a decrease in overall safety incidents.

Over the years, DOE has had an excellent safety record, as compared with much of industry, but there is still concern by oversight boards such as the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board and Congress about the number and nature of safety problems in the DOE complex. As shown by the incident data in DOE's Occurrence Reporting Processing System (ORPS), personnel error from all sources is present in over 77% of all occurrences. Instituting programs such as Integrated Safety Management (ISM) and the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) has been part of the continuing responses to this persistent safety problem. Within this context, several DOE sites have looked to BBS to reduce the human error aspects of safety.

The core philosophies of the BBS approach are complementary to those of many other programs within the DOE. For example, BBS supports VPP and ISM by giving an avenue for employee involvement and a systematic approach to identify and correct behaviors and conditions that lead to employee injuries.

BBS applies across a broad range of safety areas. BBS can be promoted on the production floor or in the office and is applicable off the job as well. BBS enhances several long-used safety tools (e.g., management tours, housekeeping audits, and safety meetings), thereby reducing the overall safety program cost. This indicates a shift in the focus of safety from programmatic to an "on the shop floor" focus. Organizations that properly implement BBS see the return on the investment ("ROI") of spending safety resources directly in the active work area, and this also leads to "reduction of injuries." This adds value to safety meetings and management tours, which customarily focus on conditions.

Benefits of Behavior-Based Safety

BBS is a process that provides organizations the opportunity to move to a higher level of safety excellence by promoting proactive response to leading indicators that are statistically valid; building ownership, trust, and unity across the team; and developing empowerment opportunities which relate to employee safety. Equally important to organizational culture, BBS provides line management the opportunity to prove and demonstrate their core values on the production floor.

BBS used in the context of ISM can impact injury rates and total reportable cases. The safety literature and DOE experience show that this occurs with consistency as shown in Figure 2, a "before-and-after" snapshot of Total Recordable Case (TRC) rate from seven different sites using BBS. In each of the cases, the TRC rate was lower following BBS implementation.

It should be noted, however, that multiple facets of an organization can influence the swings of injury rates. When a statistical process control perspective is applied, an organization realizes that specific fluctuations will occur; however, the process will remain "in control." BBS is "a key on the key ring" of safety. It is neither a quick fix nor a silver bullet. It is, however, an important process that addresses the human element of industrial safety in a scientific, logical approach with leading and predictive indicators.

BBS is good business. Safety costs money, safety programs take manager and worker time, and incidents take time to investigate. The data from LBNL, SRS and SPRO (shown in Appendix C) reflect how BBS can save money. The observation process is also transportable to improving the way work is done, which can lead to enhanced quality.

BBS values, such as building trust, sound relationships, and the use of leading indicators, are applicable in all business activity. Once an organization becomes fluent in leading the safety process through a behavioral approach, it can transfer this experience into other business priorities, such as customer service, quality and absenteeism, making the implementation a spearhead to many business improvements.

History of Behavior-Based Safety

The merging of different disciplines or sciences is not a new concept. In 1876, a medical doctor who held a university chair in Philosophy started studying behavioral processes, and the science of psychology developed. In the 1970s and 1980s, a merger of the behavioral sciences as applied to safety (Komaki et al., 1978; Krause, Hidley, and Lareau, 1984) led to the birth of a "new" process-behavior-based safety.

Linking behavior to hazardous situations is not new. As early as the 1930s, Heinrich (1951) reported that "unsafe behaviors" were linked to about 90 percent of all accidents. Subsequent studies by DuPont (1956) confirmed Heinrich's contention. Traditional engineering and management approaches tend to center around controls focused on automation, procedure compliance, and administrative controls. These, and OSHA-type standards and rules, were successful in significantly reducing the number of accidents. But, despite these actions, incidents and accidents kept rates at unacceptable levels. Data in DOE's Occurrence Reporting Processing System (ORPS) show that personnel error is still present in over 77 percent of all occurrences. DOE's Integrated Safety Management System (ISMS) and Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) are part of the continuing responses to this persistent safety problem. However, several DOE sites are also looking to behavioral solutions to reduce the human error aspects of safety.

Formally developed in the late 1970s, behavioral safety has an impressive record. Research shows that, as safe behaviors increase, safety incidents decrease. Within DOE, production facilities such as Pantex, the Savannah River Site (SRS), and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPRO), and national laboratories such as Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), and Lawrence Berkley Laboratory (LBL) have instituted behavioral safety. In all cases, implementing the behavioral safety process has led to an increase in safe behavior and a decrease in overall safety incidents.

Behavior-Based Safety and Integrated Safety Management Functions

DOE sites have embraced ISM as a philosophy for years. They have implemented ISM as it applies to specific work and tasks. A successful BBS process by default or design encompasses the Seven Guiding Principles of ISM. These principles provide the foundation on which any BBS process should be built. BBS enables organizations to apply the Five Core Functions across the entire organization on a day-to-day basis and does not restrict the process to the actual performance of work. Many workplace injuries occur when employees are involved in non-task-related activities such as walking from point A to point B. BBS processes also provide the footprints to show that ISM is at work around the clock.

Seven Guiding Principles of Integrated Safety Management

  1. Line Management Responsibility for Safety The responsibility for safety and the BBS process is shared by management and front-line workers. All levels of the organization are involved in an effective BBS process.
  2. Clear Roles and Responsibilities Functions within the BBS process are performed at the proper level and are integrated and adapted to fit the formal organization itself.
  3. Competence Commensurate with Responsibilities An effective BBS process provides the skills needed to perform the tasks and functions associated with the job in a timely manner; provides the opportunity to use those skills on a regular basis; and provides for coaching and interaction with other people and organizations using the BBS process.
  4. Balanced Priorities BBS provides the consistent stream of safety data that enables managers to balance safety priorities with production and other operational needs.
  5. Identification of Safety Standards and Requirements Existing safety standards and requirements aid in developing the list of behaviors and definitions used in the BBS process.
  6. Hazard Controls Tailored to Work Being Performed The observation process provides ongoing monitoring of processes so that Hazard Controls reflect the risks associated with work being performed in changing environments and conditions.
  7. Operations Authorization The BBS process helps provide the behavior-related safety information necessary to make informed decisions prior to initiating operations.

Source: DOE

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