What is behavioral safety?

Everybody who works to reduce accidents and improve safe performance is concerned with human behavior. “Behavior and accidents is what it’s all about”, is a commonly heard phrase. Is everybody who is concerned with reducing workplace injuries and illnesses, and the work practices associated with these injuries and illnesses, using “behavioral safety”? While behavioral safety shares a concern with human behavior and safe performance in the workplace with other approaches, it is more than that.

Behavioral safety is the application of behavioral research on human performance to the problems of safety in the workplace. This means that any safety program labeling itself as a behavioral safety program must meet the standards of behavior analytic research as practices are applied to the workplace.

How does Behavioral Safety work?

Behavior analysis is the science of behavior change. Applied behavior analysis is the application of the science of behavior change to real world problems, such as safety performance. As we do this, we are looking for functional or systematic relationships between:

  • Environmental changes, i.e., the stimuli or cues that lead to behavior.
  • The behavior itself, such as specific areas of work performance.
  • The consequences of behavior, i.e., the positive or negative responses that occur immediately after a person performs a particular work task.

Sound behavioral safety programs include the following basic steps:

  1. Behaviorally specify the desirable performance.
  2. Measure safety performance.
  3. Shape safe performance through feedback and other consequences.

More Tips to Aid in Behavioral Safety

  • Get employees involved in your safety program and training to increase engagement.
  • Behavior change is the goal, not just education. 
  • Behavior change requires the right kind of positive reinforcement. 
  • Behavior change often requires system change. 
  • The focus must be on everyone, including management.

Why all the interest in behavioral safety?

The application of behavioral research to the solution of human problems is building and demonstrating the first effective and reliable technology of behavior change in human history. 

No other field of psychology or the behavioral sciences has been able to successfully do this.  In workplaces with troublesome rates of unsafe performance, behavioral safety programs, properly implemented, produce significant improvements in safe performance and major reductions in workplace injuries and illnesses. Human suffering and financial costs are sharply reduced. Moreover, the costs of producing these gains in human performance are a good investment, paying for themselves many times over.

The multi-disciplined team at Spencer-SHE will guide your organization through the process of setting goals, reaching milestones, and implementing changes in your safety culture.  Our team of experts has over 50 years of experience assisting clients with program development, implementation, regulation compliance and agency correspondence.

Contact us to set up a consultation!