Certainty Blog

How to Avoid ‘Pencil Whipping’ with BBS Programs?

How to avoid pencil whipping in BBS programs

The act of certifying and approving documents or audits without knowing or reviewing what is being approved is also known as pencil whipping. Pencil whipping has hindered many businesses’ success in their Behavior Based Safety (BBS) Programs because of the results of implementing false or inaccurate data.

We spoke 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 at how to manage an effective BBS program and avoid pencil whipping.

Behavior-Based safety programs commonly experience this problem with pencil whipping when an employee realizes a few hours before a deadline that they didn’t submit the required observations for that time period. As a result, they may hastily pencil whip a few observations to meet the quota.

Ultimately, their hope is that this will be adequate for the purposes of the program. Of course, when this occurs, it skews the generated data from these programs and negates their purposes. Additionally, it ignores the main goal of a BBS program. In the end, that goal is to find the underlying truth and causes behind unsafe behaviors in the workplace.

BBS Observation Card Spot Checks

There are several ways of avoiding pencil whipping. Joseph Braun, EHS Manager at Ferrara Candy Company says they “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’ll see noticeable trends that point out pencil-whipping.

While reviewing these reports, Joseph is also following up on the answers, seeing if there is a substantive meaning behind the observations and rooting out anything unfounded.

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BBS Program Quality Reviews

John Peoples, Global EHS Manager at Huntsman Corporation relies on “quality checks by managers and reviews at management meetings” to identify the pencil whippers. By leaving it up to the managers, who understand everything happening at the ground level, they are able to quickly notice any discrepancies. Some of these discrepancies 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 need 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. However, they require thorough due diligence and a level of training and trust in your employees.

Results from pencil whipping might look good on paper, but eventually, those metrics will start to break away. What results is it reveals real safety concerns and hazards that are not being addressed due to these inaccuracies. It’s important to nip pencil whipping before the results have skewed 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’