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.
To some people the benefits of a Behavior Based Safety programs may seem elusive – how could you get concrete data from the common-place everyday actions and decisions of your employees? Should it just be assumed that resources be put towards preventative measures and protective equipment, tangible assets, where the value they bring to safety is more apparent? This kind of thinking overlooks the common factor that is universal to all workplace injuries – people.
A safety program that does not take special consideration of human attitudes, beliefs, ideas, and feelings towards safety is missing a huge piece of the safety pie. Behavioral Based Safety takes a holistic approach to safety – it looks at the big picture, the safety environment of a workplace, and unearths the root causes of potential hazards and unsafe behaviors. As Joseph Braun, EHS Manager at Ferrara Candy CO. puts it, “BBS helps to get a feel for what is really going on at the floor level. It provides data to make decisions on where to focus your safety programs and what areas are lacking”. A BBS program helps you identify exactly where those resources and tangible safety assets are most required.
A safety program that focuses only on unsafe behaviors and hazards associated with a job can undergo the unfortunate result of becoming reactionary, addressing dangers after they have already had a negative impact on your business and employees. This defeats the purpose of a safety program altogether. To truly increase the positive outlook on the safety environment of your business you will also need to focus on what works. What are the every-day actions of my employees that are guaranteeing their safety and the safety of their peers? As Chad Rasmussen, EHS Manager at Cardinal Health puts it “Not all hazards can be controlled by elimination or engineering. When employees need to be trusted to make decisions regarding their safety, the right choices need to be reinforced. People get complacent and don’t always notice positive outcomes when they become routine. At that point people start to knowingly or unknowingly start making riskier choices”. Identifying and positively reinforcing these actions is what an effective BBS program aims to do.
It may take time, but if planned extensively, followed rigidly, and executed efficiently, a BBS program can have a very positive impact on the environment of a workplace and the well-being of the employees. It empowers workers, as John Peoples, Global EHS Manager at Huntsman Corporation puts it, “it provides an opportunity to recognize and reinforce high standards and good practices displayed by our teams”. This high standard is the best possible outcome you can achieve from and effective BBS program. This high standard of safety will directly prevent workplace accidents and injuries before they can happen. It is not a reactionary approach, it is a proactive one that could even save lives.
Take some time to consider the benefits of a BBS program. As we have explored here, it can be effective in addressing some key areas that could be lacking from your safety program. Do you have trouble bringing your employees into the safety conversation? Do you want the confidence to trust your employees to make the right decisions? Do you want your employees to become Safety Leaders and take proactive steps towards a safer work environment? If you answered yes to any of these questions, maybe it is time to give Behavior Based Safety a second look.
Stay tuned for more blogs in this series!