Behavior-Based Safety

Resources - Behavior-Based Safety

Setting Up the Behavior-Based Safety Process

As shown in the figure below, BBS is a multi-stage process leading to observation, feedback, and continuous safety improvement.

BBS processes should be tailored to the work and management environment where they function. Initial work in setting up a BBS process should involve management, workers, and the union at your facility. A major player is the "champion" who has the responsibility for initially driving the process forward and guiding initial training and the initial selection of the steering committee (SC).

Establishing a Steering Committee

The SC is the cornerstone for the implementation and growth of the BBS process in an organization, as it sets the boundaries for the process and guides the development, implementation, and process continuation. The initial SC is selected from a group of qualified employees, preferably volunteers, representing each distinct group, team, etc., of the organization. The SC should be kept to a manageable size of around 10-15 members. If the SC is larger, it may not function as well. Therefore, multiple committees may be necessary. This decision may have negative consequences if not well managed. The SC should determine how new members will join. The SC is composed of employees from the facility or organization, and should be a diverse cross-section of the organization. It is equally important that the SC members be those who command the respect of their peers, display leadership qualities, and are forward thinkers.

The organization's manager, the BBS coordinator, and the management champion may make initial assignments to the team and should establish the duration of the term, which is typically one year.

Steering Committee Roles and Responsibilities

The functions listed below have been shown to be essential to the successful workings of the SC and to guiding the organization through implementation. The functions may be combined based on the number of members available and the capabilities of those individuals.

Management must recognize that the implementation and growth of the BBS process requires time and resources. Personnel must be afforded the opportunity not only to serve on the SC, but also to adequately perform assigned functions within that body. For each of the following functions, consider the responsibilities, desired characteristics or abilities, and the expected time factor (TF) involvement (Hi, Med, and Lo):

Management Champion/Sponsor The management champion or sponsor serves as an enabler and resource for the material needs of the SC. This individual must be a high-ranking member of management with a devotion to the BBS process. The individual must be willing to accept a role as an equal on the SC and avoid the temptation to manage the team. (TF=Lo to Hi)

Facilitator This individual should be a strong supporter of BBS, be knowledgeable of the process, and be an energetic leader comfortable with working within the organization's environment. This person leads the team through the BBS process implementation. Strong consideration should be given to selecting a deputy or assistant facilitator, for both continuity and depth of leadership. Functions include:

  • BBS process expert
  • Have a vision of long-term process sustainability
  • Liaison with management team
  • Action plan coordination
  • Meeting chair
  • Training and monitoring observation performance
  • Other functions as identified by the SC and sponsor, such as data administrator and data input. (TF=Hi)

Data Administrator The data administrator will be responsible for data analysis or assist the facilitator with this function. Access to the data will be necessary by various individuals. Access to the database should be controlled. This function will require some computer experience. (TF=Lo to Hi)

Data Entry In organizations using a single data entry point, this function should be associated with the SC. If a single data entry point is used, this person will input all completed observation forms into an observation database. This necessitates good typing skills and a flexible schedule. This task may be performed by committee members or clerical support. (TF=Lo to Hi)

Data Manager For injuries and accidents to be predicted, the data gathered though observations must be reviewed and interpreted. The Data Manager prepares data packages for SC review, posts appropriate graphic information on organizational bulletin boards, provides necessary statistical information, etc. An additional desirable quality would be that of statistical analysis ability to help the SC interpret the data. (TF=Med to Hi)

Recording Secretary This function records SC meeting minutes, prepares and issues the minutes, and issues the upcoming agenda prior to the next meeting. The timely issue of the meeting minutes requires the ability to do a quick turnaround. The recording secretary needs good organizational skills. (TF=Med)

Communicator Experience in BBS implementation has shown that communications play a pivotal role in the involvement of the observer force and the education of the organization. This function provides for release of information from the SC to the observer force and the organization. Desirable qualities in an individual filling this function are creativity, flexibility, computer skills, and good oral and written communication abilities. (TF=Med)

One final factor for consideration is the level of involvement that the organizational safety engineer(s) will have with the SC and the BBS implementation. The SC may choose to include a safety engineer on the team. Safety engineers should be trained in the observation process along with other observers. The SC should fill these positions as they deem necessary for the success of their process.

Function of the Steering Committee

Basic responsibilities of the SC are:

  • Develop the at-risk behaviors inventory
  • Participate in the training and coaching of observers to provide for mentoring the observer process
  • Design the observation process
  • Analyze the observation data
  • Build action plans to respond to the leading indicators seen in the data
  • Ensure that communication with observers is maintained
  • Ensure that BBS is promoted and communicated to all organizational levels.

The SC may elect, as part of their team-building efforts, to create an identity for the team or for their organization's process. A unique name or acronym, logo, motto, or slogan can serve as a rallying point for the team. Depending on the scope of implementation, this identity may be site-wide, or facility-based.

Identifying At-Risk Behaviors

A very important step is the development of a list of at-risk behaviors. This inventory is supported by a list of definitions and examples of critical behaviors based on information extracted from injury reports, interviews, and observation of ongoing tasks native to a site's work environment. This inventory of behaviors, customized for your facility, is the basic tool of observation. The observation data will ultimately be used to develop plans for risk reduction. Customizing the inventory is also critical in promoting acceptance and ownership of the process by the employees.

The behavioral definitions and examples should be written so that they are "observable." Critical behaviors should be organized by risk factors, ranked in order of their potential severity.

Resources utilized for extraction of critical behaviors:

Accident/Incident Reports Information extracted from the investigations will indicate behaviors that have placed employees at risk for injury in the past. Review of these reports will often result in more than one critical behavior contributing to an injury or incident. The SC should be involved in current and future investigation groups to maintain good continuity of information from a behavioral perspective.

Job Safety Analysis, Job Hazard Analysis, and PPE Assessments Personnel who work closest to the risk should generate these documents. Information derived from these documents will assist in determining hazards on a "task to task/step by step" basis for SC members who may not be familiar with certain jobs.

Task Observations Conducting observations of typical work tasks will not only validate behaviors that have already been extracted from historical sources, but may also reveal new critical behaviors that have not yet resulted in recordable injury. Observations can also provide a means of engaging employees in the development of the site process.

Employee Interviews Interviewing employees from various work groups can provide an opportunity for workers to explain how they perform their jobs safely. Knowing what behaviors are used to perform jobs safely can aid in determining the risks of not performing a job in a behaviorally safe manner.

Brainstorming Group interviews can help identify critical behaviors in work teams that have historically low injury rates and low risk perception.

Review and Revision

Maintaining a valid inventory is critical to continuous improvement. The inventory should be reviewed periodically (at least annually) for applicability by the SC. Observers also review the tools during routine observations. New at-risk behaviors may be identified, especially when new equipment, facilities, and processes are introduced. Some behaviors may not be currently valid because the tasks associated with them have been changed or are no longer contributing to risk. These may need to be retired from the inventory. Inventories are modified based on a combination of data and the informed judgment of the SC.

Maintaining and Growing the Process

Keeping the momentum is an important part of a successful process. To present new challenges for the team, consider questions such as:

  • How soon can you achieve an observation/feedback rate that will improve safety?
  • How can you improve or maintain this observation rate?
  • What is the decision process for growing BBS into new "shops" or adding different at-risk behaviors to the process?

Behavior-Based Safety with Other Safety Efforts

How do you use BBS within the structure of ISMS, VPP, or other more traditional methods? Most safety programs concentrate on "things" and have been relatively successful in reducing the safety incidents having to do with "things." As these more traditional methods find success, what seems to remain is a residual of problems related to human error. BBS addresses many of the causes of human error; it brings worker participation into the safety arena (supporting VPP) and looks at worker tasks (ISMS at the task level). BBS supplements existing safety programs and adds another level of protection: the worker.

Source: DOE

Certisafety Section Home Page

Copyright ©2000-2019 Geigle Safety Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Federal copyright prohibits unauthorized reproduction by any means without permission. Disclaimer: This material is for training purposes only to inform the reader of occupational safety and health best practices and general compliance requirement and is not a substitute for provisions of the OSH Act of 1970 or any governmental regulatory agency. CertiSafety is a division of Geigle Safety Group, Inc., and is not connected or affiliated with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).