By Dr Dominic Cooper, CEO at B-Safe Management Solutions
As one of the original UMIST Behavioural Safety researchers, I am delighted to see so many companies adopting Behavioural Safety as part of their safety improvement effort. I am sure many injuries have been avoided and many lives saved. Looking back over the past 25 years, however, it becomes apparent that not all are sure about measuring safety behaviour or are unaware of the types of metrics they should be adopting. As such I thought it timely to provide a reminder for some and a primer for others. These metrics are listed in what I think are in descending order of importance.
- The ‘Percent Safe’ score is the foremost measure used to track the rate of behaviour change. Behavioural Observation checklists are constructed, and trained observers score their colleagues behaviour against these. Calculated as the number of safe behaviours observed, divided by the total with the product multiplied by 100, this measure lets you know if safe behaviour is improving, unchanging or declining (assuming the observations are honest efforts). It is used at the beginning of a process to provide a baseline for comparative purposes, to set improvement goals, track behavioural safety performance over an extended time period, and it forms the basis for feedback[i].
- ‘Percent Visible Safety Leadership’ score is used as a measure of managerial involvement in the process. Groups of managers (senior, middle, and front-line) agree on sets of 10 behaviours or so that they can perform regularly to support the process and safety in general. Once a week, each manager records which of these behaviours they performed. The number of ‘Yes’ scores is divided by the total number recorded and multiplied by 100 to calculate the Visible Safety Leadership score. This metric has been shown to help improve people’s safety behaviour by as much as 86 percent[ii].
- The Corrective Action Rate refers to the number of corrective actions completed, divided by the total reported in a given time period (usually within 30 days), and the product divided by 100. On its own, this measure has been shown to improve people’s safety behaviour by around 21 percent.
- The percentage of behaviours observed that are potential Serious Injuries & Fatalities (SIFs). This metric tracks those unsafe behaviours that could lead to a life-altering (e.g. amputation) or life-threatening event (e.g. death). The lower the number in relation to the total number of behaviours observed the better[iii].
- The Praise Ratio measures the extent to which people are being positively acknowledge for their safe behaviour, compared to being coached, supported or the job being stopped because it is too dangerous to continue. In other words it provides a measure of the consequences applied by the observer for working safely or unsafely. The ideal Ratio to strive for is 4 positives (e.g. praise), for every negative (i.e. coach, support or stop-the-job).
- The Quality of Observations is assessed by comparing ‘Percent Safe’ scores for particular checklist behaviours against those identified on near-miss and incident reports. As the ‘Percent Safe’ scores recorded increase (e.g. PPE) the associated injuries and near-misses involving those behaviours should decrease (e.g. Head and Hand Injuries).
- ‘Participation rates’ are used by many as their primary Behavioural-Safety measure. This is calculated on the basis of the number of active observers, divided by the total number of available trained observers, multiplied by 100. In my view, although a useful metric to gauge the extent of uptake among the workforce, this is often over-emphasised as all efforts to make the process work become a huge exercise in simply ensuring people are doing their “quota” of observations, rather than focusing on how safe people are actually working, what the issues might be that lead to unsafe behaviour and fixing them.
Collectively, these metrics provide a comprehensive overview of the effectiveness of a Behavioural Safety process. When all trends are in the right direction there should also be proportional reductions in incident frequency and severity rates. If there is not, something is not right and a comprehensive process review should immediately be undertaken.
Although the Visible Safety Leadership, Corrective Action Rate, and monitoring the percentage of SIFs are the most difficult metrics to achieve they each exert the most fundamental influence on safety performance. The Safety Leadership scores demonstrate that managers are safety leaders, while the Corrective Action rate is feedback to the workforce that the company is taking the process very seriously, and is concerned to reduce risk. Monitoring potential SIFs helps stop people being serious injured or killed and shows the work force the company really does care about them.
In combination with the other Behavioural Safety metrics (e.g. Percent Safe) these provide ‘proof positive’ the company is travelling on the road to safety excellence[iv]
[i] Cooper, M.D., Phillips, R.A., Sutherland, V.J & Makin, P.J. (1994) ‘Reducing Accidents with Goal-setting & Feedback: A field study’. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 67, 219-240.
[ii] 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 Retrieved from http://www.Behavioral-safety. com/articles/Safety_Leadership_in_Construction.pdf
[iii] Cooper, M.D. (2015) Behavioural Safety: Reducing workplace accidents. http://www.behavioral-safety.com/articles/BSMS%20-%20BBS%20ebook.pdf
[iv] Cooper, M.D. (2009) Behavioral Safety: A Framework for Success’. BSMS, Franklin, IN, USA ISBN 978-0-9842039-0-1.
Dr Dominic Cooper is CEO at B-Safe Management Solutions