Since the early 1990’s behavioral safety has fast become an established weapon in the war on workplace accidents, as its use has helped many companies to dramatically slice through their accident plateau, something that hitherto could only be dreamed of. A vast body of scientific research testifies to the effectiveness of behavioral safety initiatives across a wide range of industries in many countries (See reference pages). Many companies, for example, have experienced 40-75 percent falls in their accident rates within six to twelve months as a direct consequence of implementing the techniques associated with behavioural safety.
In answer to the question posed by the title of this document, Behavioural safety is the systematic application of psychological research on human behavior to the problems of safety in the workplace. Given that 96 percent of all workplace accidents are triggered by unsafe behavior, most people will be aware that reducing accidents and improving safety performance can only be achieved by systematically focusing upon those unsafe behaviors in the workplace. For example, ducking under or climbing over assembly lines to reach the controls, not holding the handrail when ascending/descending stairs, not putting equipment away after completing a job, etc., are all unsafe behaviors. These are in the direct control of the person engaging in them, and therefore can be targeted for improvement via a workforce driven behavioral safety initiative.
However, as behavioral safety gains wide spread popularity many have jumped on the bandwagon to peddle their so called ‘behavioral safety systems’. Although, the widespread use of behavioral safety is welcome there is a very real danger that such systems do not incorporate the essential ingredients required for success. In the longer term, despite the v ery real successes attributable to behavioral safety, poorly designed and implemented behav ioral safety systems will soon lead to its demise, as happened with Total Quality Management techniques in the 1980’s, because companies found that it did not deliv er the expected
Acknowledgment to: Safety Culture Associates.