Behaviour-Based Safety (BBS)



Safety procedures are a set of behaviours, compliance with which ensures the safety of themselves and those around them. Typically, businesses and organisations promote compliance with safety procedures by putting up posters, providing training, and reactively responding to individuals that engage in unsafe behaviours. They may even promise bonuses if injury rates remain low. Yet this is not sustainable, and injuries at work still occur.

Behaviour-Based Safety (BBS) takes a proactive approach, utilising the science of behaviour and behaviour analytic principles, to ensure everyone knows and remembers what is expected of them, and consistently and sustainably complies with these safety protocols by engaging in safe behaviours. These behaviours are then reinforced through incentive programs designed to maintain and sustain behaviour over time.

Pinpoint Safe and Unsafe Behaviours

Firstly, it’s important to know what behaviours are required to keep the individual and others safe. What does legislation, regulation, policies and procedures current require of staff?

Then, it’s important to observe what is actually happening. What behaviours are staff engaging in? Are they in line with these policies, procedures, or legislation? Are they safe or unsafe? If they are unsafe, why are individuals engaging in those behaviours over the safe behaviours?

We then want to put systems in place to measure both the safe and unsafe behaviours, so we can take stock of what the current situation is. This may include spot checks and observations, checklists, incident reporting, and discussing safety procedures in meetings.

Reduce Risk Through Antecedent Strategies

An antecedent is what happens before a behaviour occurs. This may include training, posters, checklists, and goal setting. These are designed to clearly articulate what is expected of an individual and remind them what to do in the moment.

Training often is not adequate to effectively train and maintain behaviour, and therefore implementing an approach called ‘Behavioural Skills Training’ may support more effective training procedures. This involves showing and instructing an individual how to engage in the skills/behaviour, model the skill, allow the individual to rehearse the skill, provide feedback, and then repeat this process until an individual demonstrates that they have mastered the skill. Most training focuses on the first couple elements of this, and don’t always ensure the individual has mastered the skill in question.

Checklists and posters can then provide prompts to individual, so they can remember what they need to do in the moment. Goal setting can then provide expectations for staff and allow for measurement for consequence strategies described below.

Sustain and Maintain Change Through Consequence Strategies

We also want to put systems into place to reward and reinforce behaviours that comply with safety procedures, as well as other behaviours that allow us to measure and monitor, including completion of checklists, incident reporting, and management observation and spot checks. These rewards and reinforcers need to be effective for the individual and may not be the same for all individuals. They don’t always need to be delivered by management, either, and may even be naturally occurring, such as being aware that they are keeping themselves and others safe, especially in situations where an individual may not be fully aware that they are engaging in unsafe practices.

If you would like to discuss how you can design and implement a behaviour-based safety program in your workplace or organisation, contact us to arrange a free consultation to find out how we can support you to do this.

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