Behavior-based safety has many benefits: It can help provide more of a safety focus in an organization, help to identify and reduce risks, and it can even help workers have a better sense of what success looks like in terms of both safety and performance.
“Behavior-based safety can also help identify low probability risks, common risks, and big risks,” says Shawn M. Galloway, the President of ProAct Safety and co-author of several bestselling books, his latest published in 2017, Lean Behavior-Based Safety: BBS for Today’s Realities.
As a consultant, advisor, podcast host, and keynote speaker, Galloway has helped hundreds of organizations, across every major industry around the world, achieve and sustain excellence in performance and culture. He’s also been named by EHS Today magazine as one of the 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS and ISHN magazine has listed him in the POWER 101 – Leaders of the EHS World Elite List of Up and Coming Thought Leaders.
We sat down with Galloway to talk about misconceptions about implementing behavior-bases safety, and what it really takes to make behavior-based safety work.
Misconceptions About Behavior-Based Safety
Ask someone about behavior-based safety today, and it’s likely they will have an opinion of some kind: some are strong advocates, some are unsure of how it can benefit their company, and still others are against the process. “Usually those who despise the process do not understand the intention of the efforts or they have had bad experiences due to improper or unethical implementation practices or design choices,” explains Galloway.
Still others have the misconception that if they implement behavior-based safety, they won’t need to do other initiatives as an organization. “That, of course is wrong, and behavior-based safety has to fit within an overarching strategy for safety,” adds Galloway.
Put simply, implementing behavior-based safety is not a strategy itself, and achieving world-class excellence is not a strategy either. “Rather, those are goals or objectives an organization may have.
“Companies that succeed with this approach see behavior-based safety as an initiative that supports objectives that go within their overarching strategy,” he adds.
Implementing Behavior-Based Safety to Improve Your Culture
Here are 7 questions leaders can ask to evaluate where they stand in relation to the critical factors that support implementing behavior-based safety engagements.
- Is the company ready? Is the company, and are individual sites receptive to taking on changes that will be necessary? Galloway says that behavior-based safety works best when implemented as an addition to traditional approaches to safety. “Culture change is a byproduct of a process like this. If the site isn’t doing the safety basics, this is not going to be a replacement, the compliance foundation should be in place,” he says.
- Have you customized your engagement? Be sure you’ve made the process fit the site and the culture of the company. “What we say is you have to make the process fit the organization, not make an organization fit some pre-defined process,” says Galloway. Keep in mind its not just about the methodology. “There are enough programs-of-the-month and, if it is not designed to fit the realities of the organization, it will fail to produce long-term changes.”
- Do you have clear, effective leadership? There needs to be specific and defined process leadership in place, explains Galloway. Who’s doing what? Who’s on the team? Who’s responsible for looking at everything? Who will be in charge of reviewing the data, developing and monitoring the action plans?“There has to be an observation strategy. They can’t just say, ’Go do one a day, or one a week.’ If we have more injuries on Tuesdays, why in the world are we observing equally throughout the week? Let’s go figure out where those opportunities are.”
- Is there a sense of individual and shared ownership? Workers need to be wiling to internalize both the focus on safety, and their own successes. They have to own the process, and they have to own the ability to take steps to improve their working environment. “This should not be a consultant’s (internal or external) process, checklist, or observation strategy,” says Galloway. “Involve people in the decisions and allow them to provide creative input. This helps facilitate internalization.”
- Is there support and cooperation? It’s not just up to senior leaders to work with others—it takes supervisors, managers, frontline employees and all workers coming together. “There are typically three types of leaders regarding process support: Leaders who actively demonstrate, leaders who might behave in a way that indicates lack of support, and leaders who don’t say anything at all,” says Galloway. Look to ensure a plan is in place to align and monitor support and cooperation in your process.
- Are you leveraging your ongoing data? Who looks at and has access to ongoing, relevant data? Do you know how you are going to respond to it and use it to be more proactive? “There should be a strategy in place that considers how data is collected, analyzed, and leveraged for process and safety-specific improvement by reducing the negative influencers on or obstacles and barriers to safe behavioral choices. People do things for a reason and behavior is often a byproduct of the system and leaders. Work to change the reasons for behaviors.”
- Are you efficient—or becoming more efficient? Do we have a blanket approach or a focused approach? Is what we’re doing adding value for our end customers? Asking, “Are we as efficient as we could be?” is a question that should be continually asked, says Galloway.
Although not an exhaustive list, after thousands of behavior-based safety-related engagements, these are a few of the top factors to be aware of, explains Galloway. It’s just as important to assess whether (or how) you are capturing and delivering value to customers of this process, too. “You can continually, ask, ‘Are we providing them real value?’” says Galloway.
“And remember through this, that behavior-based safety is one of the many tools of influence—not a force-change methodology.”
Lower Risk. Improve Performance. Stay Compliant.
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