Certainty Blog

What is a Behavior Based Safety Observation?

A behavior based safety observation (BBSO) is a technique used to identify and correct unsafe behaviors in the workplace. It involves watching and analyzing the actions of employees while they work, with the goal of identifying any behaviors that may lead to accidents or injuries. This type of BBS observation is different from traditional safety programs, which focus on identifying and correcting hazards or deficiencies in the physical environment. Instead, behavior based safety observations focus on the actions of the workers themselves.

Examples of Behavior Based Safety Observations

Behavior based safety observations often reveal instances where employees are taking shortcuts in order to complete tasks more quickly or efficiently. These shortcuts may seem minor or insignificant at the time, but neglecting safe behaviors can have serious consequences if they result in accidents or injuries. For example, an employee may bypass safety protocols because they believe they can complete the task faster without following them. In this case, the employee is taking a risk in order to save time, and this risk-taking behavior can lead to accidents and injuries.

Here are some other instances of a Behavior Based Safety Observation:

  1. Witnessing an employee using a forklift and noticing that they are not wearing a seatbelt.
  2. Observing an employee working with hazardous chemicals and seeing that they are not wearing proper protective equipment (PPE).
  3. Noticing a co-worker using a ladder and noticing that they are not following proper ladder safety protocols, such as not maintaining three points of contact while climbing.

How Behavior Based Safety Observations are Measured

Behavior based safety observations are typically measured during a safety audit through the use of checklists or forms that outline specific behaviors that should be observed. These forms are often designed to identify both negative and positive behaviors and may include questions about the employee’s use of personal protective equipment, their adherence to safety protocols, and their overall attentiveness to safety issues.

Once the observations have been completed, the observation data collected is analyzed to identify trends and patterns in the data. This analysis can help businesses identify specific employee behaviors that may be contributing to a higher risk of accidents, injuries, and near misses, and allow them to deploy corrective actions.

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Process vs. Behavior Based Safety Observations

Process based safety observations focus on identifying and correcting hazards or deficiencies in the physical environment, such as defective equipment or inadequate safety protocols. These observations are typically conducted by safety professionals or safety management and may involve inspections, audits, or other methods of evaluating the overall safety of the work environment.

Behavior based safety observations, on the other hand, focus on the actions of individual workers and are often conducted by peers or supervisors. These observations are designed to identify and correct specific at-risk behaviors that may be contributing to a higher likelihood of accidents or injuries, rather than identifying and correcting hazards in the environment.

How to Implement Behavior Based Observations

  1. Establish clear guidelines on the observation process and what behaviors should be observed and how they should be recorded.
  2. Train employees on the importance of behavior based safety observations and how to conduct them properly. It’s recommended to include BBS observation training in your regular workplace safety training.
  3. Encourage employee buy-in with observations and provide feedback to coworkers. In fact, in a 14-year study, researchers concluded that even having just 30% of employees engaging in behavior based safety observation showed increased performance in site-wide safety (2017).
  4. Use the data collected from observations to identify trends and patterns, and take steps to correct any unsafe behaviors and root causes.
  5. Internally inspect the performance of behavior based safety observations on a regular basis using checklists or other forms of evaluation. This can help ensure that the observations are being conducted consistently and accurately.
  6. Establish follow-up procedures when unsafe behaviors are identified during the inspection stage. Having an action plan that can be quickly implemented establishes better safe work practices and quickly eliminates the chance of reoccurring.

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