The corporate world is full of business improvement programs. Sometimes their adoption is a must to survive in a competitive industry or market, other times they are a passing phase better avoided. Good or bad, essential or avoidable, business improvement programs will undoubtedly have both pros and cons and behavior based safety (BBS) is no different.
If implemented correctly – with sufficient leadership commitment, a BBS program will definitely improve safety, morale and productivity. However, as is the case with all enterprise -level initiatives, there are both pros and cons to be considered – BBS is no different. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider for the successful implementation of a BBS program:
Con: Observations can get lost in the weeds. Management can become too focused on observations, thinking that a large amount of worker monitoring is the key. The truth is that observations are only a piece of the puzzle – what’s more important is how this data is used to change the safety behavior of a company.
Con: BBS takes attention away from technical and engineering improvements to safety. This is only if management thinks a behavior based approach to safety is all that they need. In truth, a BBS program is best paired with a variety of safety initiatives.
Con: These programs make it very easy for management to “blame the worker”. Because these programs focus on the behaviors of workers, it’s an easy place for management to place the blame. A good safety leader would recognize that their employee’s decisions are based on the training, incentives, and environment that management may (or may not) have provided.
Pro: BBS is an opportunity to create a positively reinforced safety program. A common mistake of safety professionals is to focus only on correcting unsafe behaviors, assuming that’s the only approach to eliminating workplace accidents. BBS programs are intended to also identify safe behaviors, reward those doing them and promote exemplary behavior.
Pro: Technology can take safety to a new level. Because BBS aims for a holistic approach to safety, it’s important to collect all your observations and data under one umbrella. This will allow safety professionals to notice unsafe trends and see the results of their safety initiatives.
Pro: Behavior Based Safety brings the workers who are most likely to have an accident to the conversation about safety. It’s an opportunity for everyone to contribute their ideas about safety. An effective BBS program has 100% employee buy-in. A shared responsibility towards safety is the only way to deliver lasting and beneficial results.
Like any business improvement program, from a ‘certifiable management system’ to a ‘change management program’, the implementation of any corporate performance improvement program will require commitment and resources; will have supporters and detractors; and will have pros and cons.
In all cases though, when it comes to programs that involve people (i.e. a BBS program), you get out what you put in. Success will be dependent on the commitment provided by leadership to the program, its outcomes and those involved in it.