Safety training teaches your workforce what not to do, but mere information is rarely enough to ensure the highest level of safety. Established workplace habits are hard to break, especially when employees know what they should do, but doubt management fully supports the time and resources needed to reduce at-risk behaviors. Formal safety training is, therefore, best utilized in combination with a behavior-based safety program.

What is Behavior-Based Safety?

Behavior-based safety programs involve all levels of the workforce, from hourly workers to management. The program asks employees to focus on their own safety and at-risk behavior, as well as the behavior of their peers. Safety issues are then shared with management, which provides the feedback, support, and resources to improve safety conditions and replace at-risk behavior with safer alternatives. A behavior-based safety program acts as a continuous feedback loop between workers, safety program facilitators, and management.

Roles within Behavior-Based Safety Programs

For a behavior-based safety program to work, managerial buy-in is essential. Employees are given the mandate to report behavioral and environmental risks, but change is unlikely unless managers and supervisors commit to removing barriers to safety. The employee who feels management does not fully support new safety procedures is unlikely to implement positive change, fearing that doing so will lead to reprisals for slowing down work or consuming resources. It cannot be repeated enough: managerial buy-in and a willingness to remove barriers to safety are essential for a successful behavior-based safety program. 

Steps Towards a Behavior-Based Safety Program

Implementing a behavior-based safety program requires a shift in your organization’s safety culture, and often takes time to implement. Everyone involved should understand their responsibilities and any consequences for noncompliance with the program. Educate the workforce on the reasons for the program, and encourage them to take an active part in their own safety. Steps to take include:

  • Secure Buy-in: Support for a behavior-based program is essential for success. Both management and workers should understand the importance of the program.
  • Choose Your Safety Team: Have representatives from management and the workforce on your safety team. Ideally, the team is already familiar with behavior-based safety. If not, training will be necessary.
  • Program Design: One of the most time-consuming parts of the process. Decide upon the methods used to report at-risk behavior, how reports will be evaluated, how data will be collected, and steps to modify risky behavior. Determine what will be considered measures of success.
  • Implementation and Data Gathering: EHS data should be gathered from the moment the program begins. Data will be needed to conduct safety audits, risk inspection, and areas of improvement. Data analysis also helps reveal which jobs pose the greatest risk to safety, and uncover previously overlooked safety issues.
  • Create Safe Behavior Checklists: Once data is reviewed and at-risk situations identified, create step-by-step checklists outlining required safety behaviors for specific jobs. Go over checklists with employees to ensure everyone understands the new procedures, and have supervisors log both safe and at-risk behavior moving forward.
  • Measure Behavior: Track the frequency of employee behavior, measuring both safe and unsafe activity.
  • Make Frequent Behavioral Observations: Members of the behavior-based safety team should conduct regular observations of employees. Such observations may be monthly, weekly, or even daily depending on the safety risks involved. Observers record both safe and unsafe behavior and take note of any changes that could improve safety.
  • Provide Feedback: Provide feedback for both positive and unsafe behavior, discuss the potential risk of unsafe behavior, and offer solutions.
  • Use Your Data: Use the results of data analysis to create strategies to reduce risky behavior, eliminating unsafe behavior by replacing it with safer alternatives.
  • Circle Back and Improve Process: After each round of data analysis, examine your behavior-based safety program for ways to improve, making adjustments to how employees report at-risk behavior, how you deliver feedback and other processes as needed. Strive for continuous improvement, always assuming the workplace can be safer.

Data Gathering with Workforce Management Software

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of implementing a behavior-based safety program is data acquisition. Employees need to be able to report at-risk behavior as soon as possible. If you rely on paper reports data gathering is delayed, which can result in incomplete reports or reports being forgotten in the bustle of normal work tasks.

With workplace management software you can digitize your incident forms and reports. Employees can access and fill out reports from smartphones or mobile devices as soon as at-risk behavior is identified. Data is stored securely in the cloud, so you have immediate, up-to-the-minute information right at your fingertips, speeding up the program’s ability to analyze reports and deliver appropriate feedback.


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