Behavior Based Safety is one of those subjects managers and employees alike pretend they know about. Behavior Based Safety? No big deal, just apply behavioral science to solving real-world problems, right? That’s easy enough to talk up during a job interview to impress HR. When things get slightly out of hand, say “We need BBS!” to get brownie points with the higher-ups.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
When people are actually challenged to use BBS to better their workplace conditions, the results aren’t as stellar as we’d like them to be. Do we truly understand the ways behavioral science impact safety practices in the workforce?
The years have not been kind to society’s concept of Behavior Based Safety. With a practice this vital and encompassing, some major rebranding is in order. Let’s go with People Based Safety instead! Let’s look at a couple of ways to make this process easier for everyone involved.
1. Put people first, not a suggestion box
In the spirit of giving Behavior Based Safety somewhat of a facelift, a suggestion box is one way to botch it. While well-meaning, a suggestion box is for just that: suggestions. It’s an empty promise that workers will not feel inclined to use when they have actual concerns about safety practices.
People want to do things correctly and, for the most part, it’s hard to do that when there isn’t anyone physically available to listen to their questions. Assure that there is always someone available to answer questions or take safety violations into consideration.
Give employees a proper outlet to voice their concerns, and prove that their input is being considered by the appropriate manager in a timely manner. Putting people in the foreground and providing a valid way for employees to report work-related incidents can prevent businesses from having a worker’s comp claim in the first place.
2. Make safety both a priority and a workplace value
Of course, every business that involves manual labor is going to say that safety is one of their top priorities. Nobody’s looking to get slapped with a lawsuit, right?
When workplaces speak of priorities, people tend to think of what businesses are required to do. They only focus on them because they don’t want their company to be ruined if they don’t. On the other hand, values are typically associated with what we want to do. These values are implemented not to meet expectations or save face, but to do the right thing just for the sake of doing the right thing.
Saying that safety is a value of your business shows employees that you see them as people, not lawsuits waiting to happen.
3. Ditch traditional classroom training
The word ‘training’ alone makes people cringe, but adding ‘safety’ into the mix? When we think of safety training, we might recall a boring lecture we’ve all had to sit through for new jobs that we forget about as soon as we’re dismissed. When employees are working on a mission in the field and haven’t retained any valuable information about Behavior Based Safety, what’s the point of the traditional class training in the first place?
More and more companies are moving away from this approach to training. In a workplace where Behavior Based safety is essential enough to be a priority and workplace value, there’s a good chance your employees aren’t spending their workdays pencil-pushing.
Let your employees learn while they’re on the job. The safety knowledge they’ll need to apply to their daily lives will stick with them and, hey, they’ll be getting work done while doing so.
4. Adopt the 10-90 approach
Many people in a position of authority will tell you they spend 50-50 time in the office and on the field. Let’s be real for a second. An effective manager isn’t going to spend half of their workday isolated from the people they’re supposed to be, well, managing. In reality, you should spend 10% of your time in an office and 90% out in the field with your workers, walking through work stations and answering questions they may have about safety related concerns.
We’ve all changed a lightbulb at home while balancing on a rickety old coffee table when no one else is around. Behaviors like that seep into our jobs, as well, and being a present force on the floor actively discourages employee negligence when it comes to safety practices. Show your employees you’re watching.
5. Appreciation is key
While we just discussed how important it is to show your employees you’ve got your eyes on them, nobody wants to feel like their managers are just waiting for them to violate safety guidelines. Make sure you point out their accomplishments as well as their mistakes.
If your employees see you’re out in the field with them, proactively fixing issues and offering assistance when needed, you’ll be surprised by the amount of appreciation you receive. Showing employees that you are active and passionate about their safety is that fast way to build the value of safety within the workforce.
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