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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

Women’s wellbeing in male-dominated industries

Commerical Director at the National Federation of Builders, highlights what needs to be done to ensure significant change in workplace culture.

Risk type, compliance and personal responsibility

Geoff Trickey, Chartered Psychologist, CEO of Psychological Consultancy Ltd., and Creator of the Risk Type Compass, discusses the benefits of a person centric approach to risk management.

BCGA issues new guidance on duties of a Dangerous Goods Advisor

The BCGA has issued new guidance, which sets out the purpose, role and duties of a Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor.

The bigger strategic picture: Creating a cultural vision in business

Chief People Officer at Agilitas, Bev Markland reflects on what the technology Channel industry can expect in 2022 and beyond. 

Creating a winning health and safety culture

In this webinar Alcumus will reflect on recent HSE statistics to understand why fatalities have increased 28% YoY.

Women’s health – We need to do more

Danny Clarke, Founder of Simply-People, explores what businesses can do to best support their female employees. 

January Blues: SHP’s guide to helping workers beat the winter slump

The first few weeks of January are often perceived as a challenging time for the workforce from a mental wellbeing perspective.

Ethical impact of AI on health, safety and wellbeing

Across industry, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) has become a key feature of the technological revolution in workplace safety, health and wellbeing.

Lessons from a modern Christmas Carol

Dr Nick Bell offers a seasonal reflection on what lessons we and our profession might learn if we looked at modern workplaces through the eyes of Charles Dickens.

Crafting our way through the pandemic: Celebrating the improvisations and adaptations of the UK OSH profession

A look into the concept of job crafting, revealing the findings of two recent academic studies and at some of the positive outcomes for professionals who structure and shape their jobs with purposeful intent.

Creating wellbeing – 7 leadership habits of positivity and trust creation

Tim Marsh discusses the importance of asking ‘How are you?’ twice… and some simple pro-active, culture creation techniques.

CFTS issues warning to employers over dangers related to use of second-hand trucks

Employers purchasing a used truck are being urged to check that equipment has a valid Thorough Examination Report or otherwise risk serious accidents.

A Christmas tipple too far? The law on workplace drinking

As the festive season begins, it is important to assess your legal responsibility for ensuring staff are not over the alcohol limit while at work.

A guide to home working

Many businesses have begun to embrace the idea of flexible working and working from home and, in the current climate, more and more of us may find ourselves plunged into doing so for longer than the one to two days a week, which employers and employees adapt to fairly easily.

Why a good ‘walk and talk’ is so effective – The unseen self-fulfilling physiological science

Tim Marsh attempts to simplify the ‘hidden’ physiological science behind the effectiveness of a walk and talk, as we know that everyone likes to understand why things work well even when they long ago accepted that, clearly, they do so.

Festive period travel: Keeping employees safe over Christmas

During the festive period, many workers change the way that they travel to and from work. How can businesses ensure they are doing all they can to keep workers safe?

HSE releases guidance on managing home workers’ health and safety 

According to new guidance from the HSE, employers have the same health and safety responsibilities for people working at home as for any other worker.

Feedback from the field: Researching frontline experience

SafetyCulture and YouGov have partnered up to explore the experiences of American, British and Australian frontline workers, looking at at whether they felt listened to, empowered to take action, and if they were getting the support they needed.

Work as imagined vs. work as done

Ralph Franke, Andre Fey, and Myriam Perrier, debate the topic of ‘work as imagined vs. work as done’.

Ideology versus pragmatism in occupational safety and health

Dom Cooper summarises his recent EHS Congress session, where he dissected Safety Differently and behavioural safety.

NEBOSH launches updated Health and Safety at Work Award

NEBOSH has launched an updated Health and Safety at Work Award, designed as an introduction to workplace health, safety, and risk. 

[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.

Coronavirus advice for employers

This hub page complies all the latest government coronavirus updates. It includes what you can and cannot do in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, workplace advice from multiple sources, including information on welcoming staff back to the workplace and the latest vaccination information.

It also contains a host of useful external links and resources to find further information.

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