Behavioral Safety

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Unsafe behaviors, not conditions, account for more than 90 percent of injuries. Traditional safety programs, however, often focus on conditions and ignore behaviors. Implementing a behavioral safety process can significantly reduce injuries.

Take a Positive Approach to Safety
Psychologists say that most people would rather work to achieve success than work to avoid failure. Traditional safety programs often focus on avoiding failure (how many injuries have been avoided) versus achieving success (how safe behaviors have increased). Behavioral safety focuses on decreasing unsafe behaviors and increasing safe behaviors. There is less emphasis on punishing employees for safety violations and accidents, and more attention on recognizing and rewarding safe behaviors.

Reward the Process, Not Only the Outcome
The process includes safety activities such as:
• Employee participation in safety inspections.
• Employee attendance and involvement in safety meetings.
• Personal protective equipment use.
• Good housekeeping in work areas.
• Machine guards in place.
• Employee safety suggestion programs.
• Reporting workplace hazards.
• Teamwork.
• Performing incident investigations - implementing follow-up recommendations.

The outcome:
• Zero injuries.

Rewarding only the outcome, number of injuries can discourage injury reporting. Employees do not want to risk missing out on a safety incentive award for themselves or their co-workers, by reporting an injury.

When the process is recognized and rewarded, the fear of reporting the injury is reduced. Focus on the process and the outcome will follow.

The Challenge: Unsafe Behavior is Rewarding
It’s true, unsafe behavior is rewarding. Employees are generally unsafe for three reasons:
• To save time.
• For convenience.
• For comfort.

Most unsafe behaviors do not result in injuries. Therefore, employees that practice unsafe behaviors do not believe any harm will come to them. Enough unsafe actions, however, will result in an injury. It is just a matter of time. By increasing safe behaviors you will decrease the potential for injury.

Motivate Safe Behavior
Employees are motivated by consequences. If there are no immediate, negative consequences to being unsafe, unsafe behavior will continue. Often, unsafe behavior is ignored because the job is getting done.

A simple way to increase safe behaviors is to acknowledge employees for safe behavior you observe, such as:
• Wearing personal protective equipment.
• Cleaning up a spill.
• Opening a door for a co-worker carrying an awkward load.
• Making a safety suggestion.
• Helping with a safety inspection.
• Keeping the guard on the machinery.
• Lifting properly.
• Using the handrail on the stairway.

These behaviors may not seem important enough to acknowledge, but they are the building blocks that will improve your safety program.

Safety Share
Safety meetings can be fun. They can also provide an ideal opportunity to recognize and reward behavior(s). For example, in an upcoming meeting:
• Thank individual employees for attending.
• Invite employees to share a safe behavior they have performed since the last safety meeting.
• Write that safe behavior on the chalkboard.
• Encourage participation by rewarding employees with candy, movie tickets, prizes etc., depending on your budget.
• Ask employees what they have learned from each other.
• Discuss the safe behaviors that are expected in the workplace.
• Commit employees to be safe.

Employee Involvement is Key to Success
Give employees a vested interest in safety and they will be more committed. Behavioral safety, by its nature, involves employees. Who knows the details of their jobs better than they do? It makes sense to get employees actively involved in your safety program, they often have the best suggestions.

Behavioral Safety Works
Behavioral safety can reduce injuries because safe behaviors are increased. Use positive reinforcement. Employees respond much better to being recognized for safety than being punished for being unsafe. Acknowledging an employee can go a long way toward motivating safe behavior.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department
385.351.8103

Ask a Safety Consultant

https://www.osha.gov
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/

NOTICE: This guide may make reference to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations; however the guide is not legal advice as to compliance with OSHA or other safety laws, codes or regulations. Compliance with OSHA and other safety laws codes or regulations, and maintaining a safe work environment for your employees remains your responsibility. WCF Insurance does not undertake to perform the duty of any person to provide for the health or safety of your employees. WCF Insurance does not warrant that your workplace is safe or healthful, or that it complies with any laws, regulations, codes or standards.

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