B S A L E R T : B E H AV I O U R A L S A F E T Y S C H E M E S
It's the hazards,
There's a lot of dangerous crap at
accident means your entire
shift loses its bonus, so an
accident magically disap-
pears. You might find having
initiatives. The health and
safety coordinator for the
union federation Massachu-
setts AFL-CIO says: “Focusing
being restructured – issues
like adequate staffing levels,
limits on extended work
hours, humane work load
an accident gets you fired. on worker behaviour as and work pace are not even
work. You breathe it, you lift it, you You will find there's only one opposed to hazardous considered.”
touch it, you despair of it. Now, thanks winner, and it isn't you. conditions as the cause of In fact, BS schemes can
UK workers in the coal workplace injuries and ill- increase the dangers of work.
to the Health and Safety Executive, and steel trades have already nesses leads to approaches “These programmes and poli-
you may have to swallow a lot more seen BS schemes introduced where workers are blamed cies have a chilling effect
BS too. HSE is dusting off the discred- with a detrimental effect on for 'bad' or 'unsafe' behav- on workers' reporting of
accident rates (Hazards 64). iours such as not wearing symptoms, injuries and
ited science of "behavioural safety" The schemes are being safety glasses or not follow- illnesses," says a policy
so however many hazards you face at pushed in transport, commu- ing procedures. What gets resolution from AFL- CIO,
work, when things go wrong you can nication and other sectors. missed by focusing on worker
And behavioural safety behaviour, what never gets
safely assume "it's all your fault." targets workers' behaviour, asked, is 'why?'" (see right).
Hazards editor Rory O'Neill reports. when the overwhelming ma- She adds: “Employers
jority of health and safety also like behaviour-based
problems at work – read approaches because man-
your own reports, HSE – agement is taken off the
n late June 2002, are caused by management hook for fixing hazards.
HSE published a report corner-cutting, ignorance "Gone are demands for
"that aims to promote and a disregard for workers' engineering control, toxic use
more widespread appli- health and safety. reduction, and ergonomic
cation of behavioural In the US and Canada, job design, as attention
safety principles to improve major union organisations shifts to workers wearing
health and safety." have warned against“blame personal protective equip-
HSE's Dr Norman Byrom the worker" BS systems. ment and using proper body
said: “There is potential to UFCW, one the USA's position. Gone is any focus
extend behavioural safety largest unions, says: on how work is organised or
principles... more widely to "By shifting the focus away
encourage and promote be- from workplace hazards,
haviours that support the such programmes leave Unsafe and unsound
health and safety manage- significant safety and health Instead of having a focus on identifying hazards and
ment system as well as the problems unaddressed. eliminating or reducing them, the emphasis of a behaviour-
development of a positive UFCW members, stewards al safety programme is on getting workers to work around
health and safety culture.” and representatives have hazards that shouldn't be there in the first place.
So, what's wrong with worked hard to establish Workers are supposed to duck, dodge, lift safely, wear
that? The programmes re- strong safety and health personal protective equipment... When a worker is injured,
it is his or her fault for not working carefully enough. Disci-
ward workers when reported initiatives in all of our indus- pline can become management's preferred response to
accidents fall. You can play tries. Behaviour based safety worker injury.
safety bingo; sounds fun. programmes weaken these Even in cases where a behavioural safety programmme
There's prizes, maybe a hard-won protections and is implemented with assurances that there will be no
car or a holiday. And those discourage members from discipline, workers can face inquisitions when they report
dangerous workers out there taking a more active role in injuries to determine what "unsafe behaviours" they
were engaging in.
get their comeuppance. the union.”
The problem comes when Workers avoid these inquisitions by ceasing to report
Nancy Lessin has advised
accidents and injuries. When injuries aren't reported,
you see what really happens. North American unions to hazards don't get identified or corrected. Nancy Lessin
You might find reporting an avoid behavioural safety
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COOKING THE ACCIDENT BOOK S w w w . h a z a r d s . o r g /b s
the US TUC. It adds this workers when they identify
“can leave workers' health serious hazards or recom- Why, why, why, why, why?
and safety problems untreat- mend ways to eliminate Nancy Lessin is the top US expert on union
ed and underlying hazards them.” responses to behavioural safety. She has
uncorrected.” Leo Gerard, international this advice for union reps.
Just as worrying, the use president of the North Ameri-
of these schemes may under- can steelworkers' union NO BULL: A USWA behavioural Health and safety approaches that
safety campaign said "No BS:
mine the well-documented USWA, gives this advice: focus on workers' behaviour condemn
Eliminate hazards – don't blame
“union safety effect,” where “Management's blame the workers." The union says a
workers as the problem. Unions see
union organisation delivers worker programmes are as behavioural safety model goes: workers as the solution.
dramatic reductions in dangerous to our members Identification>Evaluation>Duck! There is no one better to identify the
www.uswa.org/services/blameworker.htm hazards on a job, or come up with ideas
workplace accident rates as any other challenge that to eliminate or reduce those hazards,
(Hazards 78). AFL-CIO notes we face today. The USWA than the worker doing that job. If a job is
“these programmes frequent- must oppose these pro- Information being done "unsafely," a good rule of
ly are implemented grammes with all our energy. Nancy Lessin has prepared a What's
thumb is to "ask 'why?' five times."
unilaterally by employers, Instead we must work just as wrong with behavioural safety pro- For example:
pitting worker against hard to implement compre- grammes?briefing for Hazards Andrea got something in her eye at work.
readers. It is available, along with But why?
worker and undermining hensive health and safety other union-friendly resources, on the
Hazards Unions and behavioural Because she wasn't wearing her safety
union efforts to address programmes that find and glasses.
safety webpages at:
hazardous workplace condi- eliminate unsafe workplace www.hazards.org/bs But why?
tions through concerted conditions that cause injuries Strategies to promote safe behaviour Because they were all scratched up and
action.” and illness to our members.” as part of a health and safety man- she couldn't see out of them.
agement system, CRR430/2002
Nancy Lessin says unions That's no BS. It's good ISBN 0 7176 2352 1 price £15; also But why?
have to be alert to dangers, advice to unions in every free in pdf format on the HSE research Because her employer bought the really
and should have a ready industry, everywhere. webpages. See page 30 for order cheap glasses that get scratched all the
"To counter manage- But why?
ment's proposal of a Because her employer wanted to save
programme, unions can Because profits are more important to
propose a comprehensive her employer than worker safety and
Carrots and sticks
worksite health and safety health.
programme – focusing on Closely related to a behavioural safety approach are safety Asking "why" questions allows an in-
identifying and eliminating incentive programmes and injury discipline policies. quiry to get to root causes – the source of
hazards and utilising the Safety incentive programmes offer prizes when no injuries the problem that will need to change in
are reported. Injury discipline policies deliver discipline or order to bring about a safer workplace.
recognised hierarchy of con- other punitive action such as drug testing when workers
trols, which supports the Unions can then strategise about what
report injuries. it would take to get an employer to pur-
elimination of hazards An injury discipline programme popular in the US is the chase adequate personal protective
and the use of engineering "Accident Repeaters Programme," which identifies workers equipment, or use engineering controls
controls as preferable to who have had a certain number of injuries – usually one to eliminate the need for workers to wear
lower-level and less effective or two in a 12 or 24 month period – and puts them in a pro- personal protective equipment, or in some
control measures such as gramme where they get: Counselling if they report another other way make the workplace safer.
injury; a written warning for their next injury; suspension for An approach that blames workers for
using personal protective the next injury; and fired for a reported injury after that. their "bad behaviour" thwarts real
equipment. Another injury discipline programme popular in the US prevention efforts. It's management
"To counter an employer- assigns a points system to injuries reported and/or compen- behaviour that is putting workers' health
proposed safety incentive sation claims filed. An injury requiring only medical care and lives at risk, and management be-
programme that offers prizes and no days away from work is assigned one point; a lost- haviour that must change in order to
to workers who do not report time accident is worth five points. When a worker reaches achieve safe and healthy workplaces.
30 points, he or she is fired. Nancy Lessin
injuries, unions can propose
that rewards be offered to
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