How do you Avoid ‘Pencil Whipping’ with BBS Programs?

Alex EckartBehavior based safety, Certainty software, EHS Software, Enterprise software, Featured, Safety audits, Safety data, Safety inspection, Safety management, Safety observation, UncategorizedLeave a Comment


In this blog series we will explore some of the questions, benefits, misconceptions, and methods of Behavioral Based Safety Programs (BBS). We have spoken with industry professionals Joseph Braun, EHS Manager at Ferrara Candy Company; John Peoples, Global EHS Manager at Huntsman Corporation; and Chad Rasmussen, EHS Manager at Cardinal Health to get an insider look on how to manage an effective Behavior Based Safety management program.BBS Observations with Certainty

Pencil whipping is the act of certifying and approving documents or audits without knowing or reviewing what it is that is being approved. This problem can arise in Behaviour Based Safety programs that require large numbers of observations to be submitted. If an employee realizes a few hours before the deadline that they didn’t submit the required observations for that time period, they may hastily “pencil whip” a few observations to meet the quota, expecting this to be adequate for the purposes of the program. Of course, when this occurs, it skews the data that can be generated from these programs and negates their purposes altogether – it ignores the main goal of a BBS program of finding the underlying truth and causes behind unsafe behaviors in a workplace.

There are several ways to avoid the dreaded “pencil whip”. Joseph Braun, EHS Manager at Ferrara Candy Company says they do a “Spot check on observation cards on a monthly basis and do follow-ups on provided answers.” This could be an effective way of deterring employees from falsifying reports. By selecting samples from many observations to be reviewed, you will be able to notice any trends that point out pencil-whipping. While reviewing these reports, Joseph is also following up on the provided answers, seeing if there is substantive meaning behind the observations and rooting out anything unfounded.

John Peoples, Global EHS Manager at Huntsman Corporation relies on “Quality checks by managers and reviewed at management meetings” to identify the pencil whippers. By leaving it up to the managers, who should have a good understanding of everything that’s going on at a ground level, they are able to quickly notice any discrepancies, some that might not be so obvious to higher-level management or safety officials. Chad Rasmussen, EHS Manager at Cardinal Health takes a more macro approach, by collecting the results and analyzing the data for discrepancies, he says “The data from the completed forms needs to be trended and analyzed for abnormally repeating results and completeness of answers.” Both approaches could be effective for verifying the observations of your BBS program, but require thorough due-diligence and a level of training and trust of your employees.

Apparent results that were achieved in portion to pencil whipping might look good on paper for a short while, but eventually those metrics will start to break away and reveal real safety concerns and hazards that are not being addressed due to these inaccuracies. It is important to nip pencil whipping in the bud before the results have already been collected in your system and are skewing the vision and scope of your safety program.

Check out previous blogs in this series and stay tuned for more!

Why You Should Include Behavior Based Safety in your Safety Management Program

How Do You Measure the Success Of A BBS Program?

Tips To Increase Participation, Buy-In And The Effectiveness Of Your BBS Program

How to Avoid the BBS ‘Blame Game’


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