What are Safety Observations and Behavior Based Safety Programs?

Behavior based safety (BBS) programs are a hot topic in the safety world. The primary issue that many people have with these programs is that they can focus too much on placing blame and creating a negative safety culture. Can a behavior based safety program work when executed properly? Possibly. There are benefits, drawbacks, and key things to be aware of to create a positive safety culture. First, let’s get clear on what behavior based safety is.

A behavior based safety program uses job safety observations to correct unsafe employee behaviors and, ultimately, create a safer workplace. Job safety observations involve recording the number of safe and unsafe conditions or actions in the workplace. Managers typically collect these observations using a checklist covering different safety topics. However, observations are not limited to only unsafe actions. An essential part of a positive safety culture is recognizing and rewarding employees for their work creating a safe environment and following safety regulations.

Benefits of Safety Observations

The goal of any safety program is to keep workers safe. Remembering this intention and reminding employees can help them relax and not feel like they’re being put on the spot or will be punished. When you observe unsafe conditions or actions, the goal is not to punish an employee. It’s to get to the root of why they’re taking that action and correct it. With that in mind, these are some of the benefits of safety observations:

  • Regular observation helps identify risky behavior
  • Control and mitigate risk exposure
  • Reinforce and reward safe behavior
  • Decrease workplace incidents, near misses, and accidents
  • Improve safety culture and awareness
  • Encourage employees to observe and report safety issues
  • Create an opportunity to determine the root cause of unsafe behaviors

You often hear about corrective and preventive action (CAPA) as a result of safety observations. That’s important, but, to borrow something from the maintenance department, a root cause analysis can help you create your CAPA plan. For example, you may discover that employees aren’t getting enough safety training. If that’s the case, then your CAPA could include the implementation of more training for employees. Maybe they’ve had training, but it was a while ago. Then, your CAPA may be instituting a regular refresher course. Or, it might not be a training issue at all, and your employees could actually use more support in the form of a safety checklist to follow. Talking to your employees and gaining an understanding of their behavior will make your behavior based safety program a collaborative experience with greater impact.

Tips for an Effective Behavior Based Safety Program

Frequency Matters

To cultivate a positive safety culture, it helps if employees feel comfortable with safety observations. This is why frequent safety observations are essential. It becomes a regular process that you can invite employees to participate in. Also, frequency is important in providing enough safety data to draw insight from.

Make it Easy

While paper-based processes are the way of the past, they are inherently more work to maintain. Instead, you can provide support for your behavior based safety program with a mobile app. Redlist’s Health Safety & Environmental (HSE) module enables you to create easy-to-use digital forms that your employees can access on any device, even the one they’re already carrying in their pocket. Providing a simple safety observation form or checklist will simplify the process for you and your employees, making it easier to implement and maintain your safety program. Additionally, filling out a digital form is faster for employees than writing out responses with pen and paper.

Don’t Forget the Positives

Focusing only on what people are doing wrong is a slippery slope to a negative safety culture. Employees who don’t have a positive attitude toward your safety program will make it more difficult to make impactful changes. A Gallup survey even found there might be a correlation between dissatisfied workers and the occurrence of workplace injuries. So, recognizing and rewarding a job well done goes a long way in workplace safety. Don’t forget to make note of the safe conditions and actions that your employees take.

Plan, Implement, and Revise

Once you determine the root cause for unsafe conditions or actions, you can make a plan of corrective and preventive action. However, you shouldn’t stop there. After you implement the plan, set a timeline for follow-up observations. This is essential to confirm whether your plan has corrected the conditions or if you need to revise.

Combine Behavior Based Safety Programs with Other Initiatives

A behavior based safety program isn’t an all-in-one program. For the most effective workplace safety program, it should be combined with other initiatives. Behavior based safety is simply a good way to identify risks you may not know about and to get your employees involved in the process. If you’d like to learn more about how Redlist can support your overall safety objectives, schedule a demo today.

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