Human factors: Behavioural safety approaches - an introduction (also known as behaviour modification)
Why is it commonly used?
- Significant number of accidents reportedly caused by inappropriate behaviour
- Good vehicle for management and workforce participation
- Can improve the visibility of managers
- Behaviours and actions influence culture through attitudes and perceptions
- Behaviours determine the performance of systems
- Define ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ behaviour
- All involve observation of behaviour in the workplace
- By managers and/or peers
- With/without targets
- Provide feedback
- Reinforce safe behaviour
- ‘re-educate’ unsafe behaviour
- Feedback ranges from on-the-spot specific feedback and discussion, to impersonalised general data
- Discussing safety in the workplace
- Learning to communicate constructively
- Management visibility
- Employee engagement in safety
- Managers/supervisors (when involved)
- Learn to observe
- Learn to act promptly on unsafe acts
- Can learn about safety leadership
- Learn to think about aspects of human factors
- Can provide some leading indicators for safety
- Can actually change behaviour (“cognitive dissonance”)
- Will identify dangerous situations
- Rule violation vs good rules?
- BIG, disciplined effort required
- Very often fails through lack of real commitment or discipline
- Some changes will be expensive
- Not ‘owned’ by everyone
- ‘Off the peg’ or consultant-led programmes can fail because of poor fit with local style/culture (UK/US)
- Trust levels amongst management and employees must match.
- Lack of friendly communication/Directive style of management
- May not be compatible with other messages
- Focus on easy, intuitive issues
- Tend to ignore low probability, high consequence risks. ‘Boots not leaks’ - can draw attention away from process safety
- Can shift onus away from management onto individual
- Don’t address significant impacts of management behaviour
- ‘Big brother’ /blame culture /Oh no, not another programme. . .
- High short-term expectations
- Failed programme = worse situation than start
Inspection & assessment issues
- What is the evidence that behaviour change will improve safety? (as opposed to better procedures or easier to use equipment for example).
- How is the programme linked to the Safety Management System (SMS)?
- How do they address tough issues? (i.e. costly remedial work, time pressure)
- Do they understand the programme and its strengths and weakness (i.e. competence)?
- Are programme goals linked to other goals, i.e. team working?
- What happens when an observation card is completed? (workforce experience vs. management view)
- Are they knowledgeable, intelligent customers?
Advice for companies considering behavioural approaches: Some Do’s and Don’ts
- Be sure that it is really what you need right now
- Find out (from employees) whether signals they get from management about safety are the first issue to address
- Network with others - not only those suggested by the consultants
- Learn what you can from alternative techniques available
- Make sure the system is your own, in style, language, presentation etc.
- Pilot, and only roll-out when confident of success
- Use it as a dialogue – and that means LISTEN to your employees!
- Spend considerable effort to get good, strong facilitators who understand safety
- Make sure that participants focus on root causes of behaviours
- Underestimate the effort and planning required
- Be over-optimistic
- Get carried away and lose focus on other aspects of safety
- Believe that the ‘Heinrich triangle’ works for occupational ill-health, minor personal injuries and major accidents
- Bother at all unless:
- You’re confident that you already have a strong SMS and a safe workplace
- Senior management can be made to think it was their idea all along
Increasing the effectiveness /chance of success
- Ownership - developed in-house is best
- Good fit with organisations needs, culture and SMS
- Commitment (involvement is better) from management
- Good communication and understanding of programme
- Approach seen as ‘fair and just’ - trust
- Managers act as role models
- There are many advantages to doing Behavioural Safety
- But these programmes (and cultural change) take time, resources and a concerted effort - senior management commitment
- A useful addition to the toolkit for occupational safety, but limited benefits for the control of major hazards
- Bias towards measurable success; can pull focus away from basics of SMS and process safety
- Must address engineering and systems as well
- Include workforce and management behaviours
- Effectiveness of programme largely depends on existing culture.
- Anderson, M. (2004). Behavioural safety and major accident hazards: Magic bullet or shot in the dark? Conference Proceedings, Hazards XVIII Symposium, 24 November 2004. IChemE, UMIST, Manchester.
- Fleming, M. (2001). Safety culture maturity model. Offshore Technology Report 049. HSE Books, ISBN 0 7176 1919 2.
- Fleming, M. & Lardner, R. (2001). Behaviour modification programmes: establishing best practice. Offshore Technology Report 048. HSE Books, ISBN 0 7176 1920 6.
- Fleming, M. & Lardner, R. (2002). Strategies to promote safe behaviour as part of a health and safety management system. HSE Contract Research Report CRR430, HSE Books, ISBN 0 7176 2352 1
- Step Change (2000). Changing Minds: A practical guide for behavioural change in the oil and gas industry, website - www.stepchangeinsafety.net
Martin Anderson FErgS
Health and Safety Executive, 2007