An overview on behavior based safety approach and the BBS program
Updated 31 Jan 2023, Published 3 Dec 2021
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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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Here are the key elements of a BBS program for an effective implementation:
All employees have to participate in the behavior based safety program. A digital tool such as SafetyCulture (formerly iAuditor) 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:
A BBS program is essentially a behavioral intervention aiming to provide employees with effective feedback, reinforcement, and recognition. This program helps improve safety conditions in the workplace and increase situational awareness of the employees based on behavioral observations. HSA recommends following these 8 steps:
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.
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.
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.
Here are more BBS checklists to use when conducting a behavioral observation:
SafetyCulture Content Team
The SafetyCulture content team is dedicated to providing high-quality, easy-to-understand information to help readers understand complex topics and improve workplace safety and quality. Our team of writers have extensive experience at producing articles for different fields such as safety, quality, health, and compliance.
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