Behavior Based Safety

An overview on behavior based safety approach and the BBS program

Coworkers creating a behavior based safety program

Published 8 Jul 2022

What is Behavior Based Safety?

Behavior based safety (BBS) is a proactive approach on increasing safe behavior in an area. BBS focuses on reducing hazards, risks, and incidents by observing the behavior of a person and determining what follows when this behavior occurs. It involves analyzing the consequences of a particular behavior and providing proper reinforcement for a desired behavior.

Importance of Behavior Based Safety

Behavior based safety relies on complete trust and cooperation between the leaders and employees. Behavior based safety is important because it provides long-term solutions for eliminating risks and hazards. This life saving approach fosters a culture of safety in the workplace which is vital for lasting success. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) discussed that organizations aim to develop a total safety culture within their area of safety. This is achieved when every employee considers safety as a value and makes sure that their fellow employees are safe. This is what the BBS approach is all about, to reduce unsafe behaviors and continuously improve on safety performances.


  • What is a behavior based safety program?

A BBS program is essentially a behavioral intervention that aims to provide effective feedback, reinforcement, and recognition to the employees. This program helps improve safety conditions in the workplace and increase situational awareness of the employees based on the behavioral observations. HSA recommends following these 8 steps:

  1. Create a design team that will initiate the BBS program.
  2. List down targeted behaviors that are deemed unsafe. These can be taken from safety audits, near miss reports, toolbox talks and other forms that contain safety related information.
  3. Create a behavior based safety checklist that can be completely filled out. Revise the checklist as needed before actual implementation.
  4. Determine the measurement system that can count the frequency of safe and unsafe behaviors.
  5. Conduct behavioral observations.
  6. Provide appropriate feedback depending on the behavior of the employees.
  7. Use the data gathered from observing employees and make necessary changes.
  8. Encourage employees to set achievable goals. This is the time when employees determine which behavior or process needs improvement. Remind employees to focus on the safety processes and not on the results.
  • Who is involved in a behavior based safety program?

Every employee, from top management to operation level employees, needs to cooperate with each other in order for the behavior based safety program to be successful. Leadership influence is an important part of the plan. Managers and supervisors are in charge of promoting and creating the program while the rest of the employees have to actively participate throughout the program. It’s essentially the leaders’ responsibility to audit the behaviors and listen to the employees. They are involved in these key processes: ABC model, reinforcement, feedback, goal setting, and behavioral observations.

  • How does behavior based safety work?

Behavior based safety is a safety system that works by identifying, observing, and reinforcing (positive) behaviors. It’s basically ensuring that employees are doing their tasks safely.

  • What are the requirements for a behavior based safety program?

There are no requirements for a behavior based safety program. There is no universal guide. Organizations have to test which method is going to be effective for them. Following the 8 step guide that was mentioned earlier can be used as a foundation for the BBS program.

Micro Approach Behavior Based Safety

The micro BBS approach aims to change the behaviors of the employees that can improve safety in the workplace. Thomas Krause provided the safety improvement process that is based on the ABC model. A stands for Antecedent, B for Behavior, C for Consequences. Consequences are what follows after a behavior. Consequences can affect future behavior depending on reinforcement and feedback. The behavioral safety process includes these 7 steps:

  1. Identify behaviors that can be problematic such as unsafe or risky behaviors.
  2. Determine the root cause of the identified behaviors.
  3. Create possible corrective actions.
  4. Evaluate corrective actions.
  5. Develop the necessary processes to carry out the BBS program.
  6. Implement the BBS program.
  7. Evaluate the data gathered from the BBS program and check whether it solved the problem or increased safe behaviors.

Macro Approach Behavior Based Safety

The macro BBS approach aims to set permanent change in the organization’s culture. This is the total safety culture that most organizations aim to achieve with their safety programs. Michael Topf created a 6 step process that can help achieve this long-term solution for safety in the workplace. The following are the 6 steps:

  1. Assess and analyze the culture in the workplace.
  2. Teach and train every employee about behavioral based safety.
  3. Encourage all employees to participate in the BBS program.
  4. Reinforce awareness, accountability, self-observation, and self-management.
  5. Provide continuous support and commitment to the employees.
  6. Evaluate and provide feedback.

This strategy needs to be applied to all levels of the organization—self, peer, leader, and organizational—for the macro BBS approach to be effective.

7 Behavior Based Safety Principles

Geller stated that there are 3 factors that reflect a total safety culture—internal personal factors, external environmental factors, and behavior factors. These factors need to be present at all times. Fundamental to BBS, the integrated approach is based upon Geller’s 7 principles. This integrated approach utilizes both individual and organizational behavior which helps achieve the total safety culture. The following are the 7 principles:

  1. The behavior interventions should be observable.
  2. Determine external factors that can help understand and improve behaviors.
  3. Antecedents should be used to direct behaviors while consequences should be used to motivate behavior.
  4. Highlight positive consequences to reinforce favorable behaviors.
  5. Make sure that the BBS program is measurable and objective.
  6. Don’t limit possibilities, create hypotheses and combine information gathered from the BBS program.
  7. Create a BBS program that considers employees’ feelings and attitudes.

Create Your Own Behavior Based Safety Checklist

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Behavior Based Safety Example

A behavior based safety checklist is an essential part of the BBS program as recommended by the HSA. Here is an example that is used during behavioral observations. This BBS checklist can determine safe and risky behaviors and also pinpoint the root cause. Follow the safety observation steps for an effective behavior audit.


Elements of Behavior Based Safety System

Here are the key elements of a BBS program for an effective implementation:

  • Standards for behavior and performance – such as the vision, mission, priorities, policies, processes, methods, and everything involved. This needs to be communicated to everyone participating in the program. 
  • Resources – physical resources are the tools, equipment, money, and facilities needed for implementing a BBS system while psychosocial resources include time, training, culture, leadership, and trust.
  • System of measurement – ensure that behavioral observations are measurable by creating a criteria where performances can be evaluated and can be used to provide objective feedback.
  • Effective consequences – this can increase favorable behaviors. Effective consequences can be in the form of positive reinforcements.
  • Appropriate application – The program needs to be fair. Give recognition and reward when necessary.
  • Continuous evaluation of the BBS program – this allows for the program to be constantly improved. This will also determine whether the program is effective or not.

A Digital Tool Behavior Based Safety Systems

All employees have to participate in the behavior based safety program. A digital tool such as iAuditor by SafetyCulture can efficiently collect behavioral observations of everyone in the organization. Managers and leaders can swiftly send out behavior based safety checklists to the employees without having to worry about paperwork.  Other notable features:

  • Thousands of free safety checklists and audit templates.
  • Ability to upload media files such as photos to better capture the scene.
  • Schedule a behavior audit and assign employees to fill out the BBS checklists.
  • Data analytics that can reflect recurrent behaviors