Mar 18, 2021

How to implement Behaviour Based Safety

Ask any safety professional if they've heard of the term behavior-based safety, and chances are high they'll answer you with a resounding YES! Follow that up with whether or not they have successfully implemented it, and the answers become unpredictable.

The theory of behavior-based safety, which Dr. Scott Geller has coined through his research about applied behavioral science, is sound. In an ideal world, this would be what everyone has implemented throughout their workforce. If the outcome is to protect workers, assets, productivity, and the companies' reputation, this empathetic and humanistic approach to implementing safety is the only way to achieve it.  

So why aren't we all using it? The simple answer is there is a missing link to insights into how safety is viewed and performed in the field. The majority of companies that operate in risky environments still use paper processes to collect their field-level data from the workforce, and workers view these as liability waivers. Using paper to gather data leaves us in a position of unknowns. We don't know when the document was filled out or where it was initially completed. We've heard stories coming from safety managers, where their workers all gathered at the bar on Fridays after work and filled out the safety forms for the past week at that time. Retroactive form submissions are great for a compliance audit, but they bring no value to the company's bottom line.

Before we can even think about implementing behavior-based safety systems, we first need to understand how the workforce views your current safety system. 

  • Do they feel like it is antiquated and irrelevant, delivering little to no value to their day-to-day jobs? 
  • Perhaps they feel like they spend all of this time writing out daily hazard assessments, where these papers get placed into file cabinets with no review or feedback?  


When we have a baseline of what's happening throughout the workforce, improvements can be set and measured. For this to happen, measuring behavior and connecting it to some goals must be put into place. Due to the nature of paper being private, offline, and impossible to access rich information, we recommend that the first step to getting a behavior-based safety system off the ground is to set up a digital method to collect your field-level safety forms. You can start collecting this information with our entry-level digital forms system. Talk to one of our experts to get set up in less than an hour.

Once a digital method has been put in place, set up a review period to ensure this new data collection is put to good use. Data points of interest can be:

  1. The median time of first safety form submission
  2. Number of safety form submissions per worker
  3. The ratio of submissions between staff and contractors
  4. Number of created actions items
  5. Number of closed action items
  6. Number of overdue action items
  7. Average time for action item completion
  8. The percentage of workers who are actively engaged in safety
  9. How many mandatory reading elements were sent out, read, and signed off on
  10. Sentiment analysis on how your workers view safety

These are all data points that our system passively collects as workers engage in safety.

After you have your data collection under control, start performing regular safety tour inspections. These types of inspections are high-level and allow you and your leadership team to observe, without prejudice, how your workers are actively performing safety. The inspection details can look something like the following;

  1. What percentage of employees per area were able to meet and discuss safety during the tour?
  2. What number of safety suggestions were received from employees?
  3. How many safety assessments were completed and available for review?
  4. At a glance, how many available safety assessments looked complete enough to appear like they were adequate? 
  5. What percentage of employees sampled demonstrated evidence of related training for their task?
  6. Rate the housekeeping condition of the areas toured.
  7. What percentage of employees implemented and adhered to hazard control measures?
  8. What percentage of employees observed wore their PPE?

These questions are all subjective and based on the individual's feelings, but it highlights what's important to them, as leaders, concerning safety. Use these reports in your regular review process to see what your leadership team cares about and create actions to remedy their concerns, highlighted by the lower scores on the safety tour report card.

These types of safety tours send a couple of signals to the workforce.

  1. Investments are happening for safety at their company.
  2. Safety matters to the leadership team.
  3. You're listening to the worker's voices.

These signals are powerful when attempting to implement Behaviour Based Safety. This is primarily due to the change in the narrative of "Do as I say, not as I do."

Behavior-based safety is more of a holistic approach to implementing safety rather than a compliance or regulation approach. The outcomes are far easier to achieve when you have an entire workforce all reaching for the same goals instead of the work of a single safety manager attempting to stay compliant.