Wouldn’t it be nice if you could tackle what is an influencing element in virtually all
of your accidents and near misses?
Wouldn’t it be even better if the solution to that element was well tried, cost effective
and a catalyst for further improvements (and not just for safety)?
The implementation of a behavioural safety programme is not a magic wand, but it
can be very effective, providing senior management are prepared to support it. It can
provide that elusive step change to a company’s safety performance that has reached a
plateau, it can be used to reinvigorate an existing safety culture or be used to create a
safety culture where one did not exist. (picture of wand with question mark?)
So what is behavioural safety?
Behavioural safety can mean many things to different people. For us behavioural
safety can perhaps best be described by listing just some of the behaviours that the
programme is meant to instil;
1. Employees wearing hearing protection without a single manager in sight.
2. Employees looking out for each other.
3. Line managers taking their legal responsibilities seriously
4. Managers talking constructively about safety with workers
5. Managers of all levels seen to be setting a good example
To achieve some of the above behaviours it is likely that the culture will have to
evolve – and that takes time, often 2-3 years, but we have seen some significant
changes even within days of a training session from the most unlikely of people!
It should be expected that on the road to changing the culture some barriers would
appear; such as people not wanting to get involved – senior management should be
ready for these and deal with them quickly.
Depending on the company, it is likely that some workers will have seen initiatives
disappear even before the ink has dried on the notice board telling them about it. As
such, some employees will wait and see what happens without getting involved. If the
employee is a line manager, or even worse a senior manager, then they must be
persuaded to get involved in the initiative otherwise the initiative could falter.
In some ways behavioural safety is almost like developing a family where folk look
out for each other. Yet another way of looking at it is that of total team development,
which encourages ownership and responsibility for line managers but involving
everyone in the team.
Behavioural safety training given by some trainers can seem soft and fluffy with nice
ideas for an ideal world.
We believe behavioural safety training should be practical and tangible and be
integrated within the business so it can start to make a difference day after day. It can
be effective when managed in various ways – but if it managed at departmental level
then the effects can be startling. Departments taking the ownership of safety into their
own hands – the effect can be immediate and sustainable. Some line managers may
even want to cascade the behavioural safety message down to their people
themselves. What might be lost from their presentation skills is more than made up
for in the interest and even passion for keeping their own people safe – this is readily
apparent and provides a message far more powerful than even the most gifted of
professional speakers can muster.
Line managers have a legal responsibility towards their people – but many don’t
know about it. We’ve found that when enlightened a different approach is taken
which even on its own makes the workplace safer. This ensures the line manager is far
less likely to think that safety is nothing to do with them or that it is a “bolt on extra”.
With senior management support and involvement the line manager’s newly found
approach to the responsibility for safety, within his or her department, can also be
extended into other areas. In doing so making the line manager far more effective.
A key element in any behavioural safety programme is trying to get all employees to
have a conversation with someone who is putting themselves or others at risk. This
can be seen as confrontational if the training has not been given correctly and it can be
difficult for some people to feel comfortable about this at first. With good training,
support and a little time most people will get over their initial comfort zone issues.
Although behavioural safety is very largely about people’s values and beliefs, and
often about changing those values and beliefs, it is something that can and should be
measured. This can be done in several ways but a safety climate survey is a good start
and if done before the initiative it can serve a starting point from which to measure
progress. Any management team that is sceptical about the need for a behavioural
safety programme could also undertake the survey; many management teams will be
shocked when they read the results!
Not a good time? Is there ever really a good time for starting an initiative?
You can only start a journey from where you are.
SpringBoard Safety Services (www.springboardsafetyservices.com)