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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
November 10, 2014

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Behavioural Safety

Behavioural safety information and resources

Behavioural safety plays a significant role in helping avoid accidents and ill-health at work.

Behavioural safety is the application of behavioural research on human performance to the problems of safety in the workplace.

Behavioural safety is changing unsafe behaviour into safe behaviour

Everybody who works to reduce accidents in the workplace is concerned with human behaviour as, according to the HSE website, up to 80% of accidents are often attributed to human error.‟

Two approaches to behavioural safety

There are two basic approaches to improving the human factors in safety: 1) changing the way people think and feel to change behaviour; or 2) directly address the behaviour to get people to do the right things at the right time. The first is encapsulated in ‘hearts and minds’ campaigns, while behavioural safety processes address the second. Many believe the issue is binary: adopt one or the other.

Which works best? No quantitative evidence is available to show the hearts and minds approach positively impacts safety performance. Conversely, numerous published studies show quantifiable impacts on injury reduction from behavioural safety approaches.                    

Both approaches attempt to engage employees in safety. Engaged employees are five times less likely to be hurt, and seven times less likely to experience an LTI[i],[ii], however, changes in a person’s values, beliefs, and attitudes have to come from within. Based on a person’s self-evaluation showing the tangible effects of desired outcomes, this is uncertain and takes a long time to affect behaviour[iii]. Depending on the person’s commitment to change it also takes between two to eight months of consistent performance for behaviour(s) to become a habit[iv]. Importantly, engaging work-groups in safety, rather than individuals, leads to greater behaviour change and incident reduction

.

Regardless, many safety professionals fail to consider the power of the prevailing situation when attempting behaviour and attitude change[vi]. In safety, this often means the presence of human error traps[vii], system faults, physical hazards, poor communications, lackadaisical safety leadership, etc. Optimising the situation optimises behaviour. For example, there is compelling evidence that completing corrective actions to eliminate hazards (i.e. change the situation) leads to an average 21% change in people’s safety behaviour[viii]. In turn, the behaviour change can be the precursor for belief and attitude changes[ix],[x].

Scientific research shows that any safety improvement initiative is doomed to failure if it does not concurrently address: 1) the way people think and feel about safety; 2) people’s safety behaviour, and 3) the prevailing situation. So the question arises: why does a large portion of the safety profession ignore the opportunities presented by this tri-partite approach?

Behavioural safety articles

Who helps the helpers?

Tony Roscoe, Director at Implexis Consulting focuses on mental health first aiders and says checks should be made as to whether support systems are in place for them. 

Unleashing the power of emerging technologies in EHS

Scott Gaddis at Intelex completes his mini-series on what OSH professionals need to look out for in 2024. 

How interactive theatre is changing the face of wellbeing training

Tim Walsh at AntiroMedia on a new approach to workplace communciation.

Creating and Sustaining a Safety Culture: A mini-guide for today’s health and safety pros

This guide looks at the role of management, the critical importance of effective communication, and the five building blocks you can use to structure your approach.

The planning, conduct and evaluation of emergency exercises in rail transport

Dr Tony Cash, an independent chartered Engineer and International President of the Rail Industry Fire Association sets out top considerations

New risk profile and challenges for security teams to manage

Hybrid and remote working have changed the risk profile and challenges for security teams to manage. When staff can’t be seen, you can’t know that they’re safe and well.

Elevating EHS in an era of global trends and regulations

Scott Gaddis at Intelex on the challenges and opportunities in 2024.

What can OSH learn from the Post Office Horizon scandal?

Faulty technology has had catastrophic consequences for those victims involved in the Post Office Horizon Scandal, and with AI set to play a significant part in health and safety, it’s fundamental we continue to acknowledge the human element, warns Kevin Barr.

Key health and safety risks in the retail sector

Dakota Murphey explains why a proactive approach to health and safety in retail is the best chance at remaining incident-free.

Five New Year’s health and safety resolutions

Dr Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser, suggests some ideas on using the dawning of a new

What does culture change stickiness mean to you?

Managing Director, Mark Ormond, shares their approach to culture change – and how to make change stick for the long term…

Navigating the future: EHS workforce and training in a new era of tech

In the first of a new mini-series, Scott Gaddis at Intelex looks at the challenges and opportunities in 2024 for EHS professionals, beginning with training and technology.

Boeing safety investigation – Mystic Marsh again?

Following news that Boeing is investigating the blowout of a panel onboard one of its planes, we revisit Tim Marsh’s 2022 article, that questioned the company’s safety record.

Tough guys don’t dance: taming the C-suite

Tim Marsh reminds us that not everyone in your organisation is singing from the same hymn sheet.

Drug misuse at JCB triggers internal investigation

JCB is investigating its workforce after 22 employees were sacked for drug misuse, the Guardian has revealed.

Nathan Baker – Institute of Occupational Medicine

Nathan Baker, CEO at the Institute of Occupational Medicine, says it’s time to reassess safety for a modern workforce.

The importance of measuring OSH

RoSPA’s Dr Karen McDonnell highlights the benefits of measuring health and safety.

Can we be too predictable?

Tim (Mystic) Marsh shares a case study addressing the ‘San Andreas’ fault of accident prevention mindset.

Out of control?

Kevin Barr asks who is ultimately responsible for health and safety outcomes.

Alcohol in the workplace

In this episode of the Safety Conversation, SHP Editor Mark Glover speaks to Janet Hadley at Choose Sunrise about alcohol in the workplace.

SHP’s most-read articles of 2023

We’ve gathered the most-read articles over the year including articles on fire safety, an in court analysis and duty of care.

[i] Harter, J K., Schmidt, F. L. , Killham, E. A., & Asplund, J. W (2006). Q12® Meta-Analysis. Gallup Consulting;

[ii] Lockwood, N. R. (2007). Leveraging employee engagement for competitive advantage: HR’s strategic role. HR magazine, 52(3), 1-11.

[iii] Rothman, A. J. (2000). Toward a theory-based analysis of behavioral maintenance. Health Psychology19(1S), 64.

[iv] Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C.H.M., Potts, H. W.W. & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 998–1009.

[v] Cooper, M.D. (2009). Behavioral Safety: Process Design Considerations. Professional Safety, 54 (2), 36-45.

[vi] Cooper, M.D. (2000). ‘Towards a Model of Safety Culture’. Safety Science, 32 (6), 111-136.

[vii] Cooper, M.D. & Finley, L.J. (2013). Strategic Safety Culture Roadmap. BSMS, Franklin, IN

[viii] Cooper, M.D. (2010). Safety Leadership In Construction: A Case Study. Italian Journal of Occupational Medicine and Ergonomics: Suppl. A Psychology, 32(1), pp A18-A23.

[ix] Pettigrew, T. F. (1998). Intergroup contact theory. Annual Review of Psychology, 49(1), 65-85.

[x] Cooper, M.D. & Phillips, R.A. (2004). Exploratory analysis of the safety climate and safety behavior relationship, Journal of Safety Research, 35, 497 – 512.

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