Behavioural safety

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As Senior HSCE Consultant, Peter Thorpe is responsible for delivering of EEF’s Health, Safety, Climate and Environment (HSCE) services. He ensures not only that client’s business needs and examination requirements are met but reduces risks and provides security of professional advice and support. With a background in the manufacturing sector, Peter has over fifteen years’ experience in health, safety and environmental management following roles in HR and training. Peter’s experience includes the implementation and auditing of HSE management systems over a range of business sectors, legal compliance auditing, noise assessment and machinery safety. More recently, Peter has worked with a number of organisations both in the UK and internationally to analyse and address cultural and behavioural issues.

The HSE estimates that up to 80% of accidents may be attributed, at least in part, to the actions or omissions of people.  This can be people not following guidelines in some cases and other times, pure carelessness, but it places a spotlight on the need to devise and develop health and safety policies and practises that are ‘human shaped’.

Traditionally, health and safety officers and managers have given a great deal of attention to the safe use of machinery and equipment in the workplace and developing safe ways of working and ensure colleagues don’t get hurt.  Training and basic competency levels have been improved and the best companies put time, thought and energy in to making sure that their staff know how and why they should do their jobs in the safest possible way. 
Health and Safety in the workplace, however continues to be considered to be an unnecessary, bureaucratic and unwelcome addition to people’s working lives.  We may find that staff members resist new policies and hear excuses like “we’ve done it this way for years no-one has ever been hurt”.  This may well be because policies, directives and working practices are handed down to staff members without adequate consideration of the human condition.

As is often said – people don’t like change.

Many organisations, especially those in the chemical, oil and gas industries where safe working is essential have invested time and energy in the development of Behavioural Based Safety schemes with a high degree of success.  These schemes not only look to improve workplace safety, but they also address broader, cultural issues within the organisation, taking in to account the professional, individual and organisational factors that may lead to human error or safety violations.  If, for instance, your staff aren’t given enough time to carry out tasks because of production scheduling, is it a surprise that they take short-cuts or ignore procedures to keep production flowing?

Time and resource is required to operate a Behavioural Based Safety (BBS) programme and a high degree of organisational trust is required if the implementation of a BBS is to be successful.  They don’t work if people at all levels of the organisation don’t feel that they can be open and honest about their roles and responsibilities. 
If you are to implement BBS, start by carrying out a H&S Climate Survey within your organisation.  Take time to understand and reflect your company’s culture and priorities and understand how the workforce perceive the current H&S culture within the organisation. This will then determine how open they would be to the introduction of a BBS programme.

Companies who approach health and safety in this way find that by understanding what job, organisational and personal factors lead to unsafe behaviour, they are able to address these issues with the support and engagement of the team.  The workforce in turn are able to take ownership over safe working practices and therefore promote safe behaviour among themselves.  Management teams who promote and positively reinforce safe working also help to foster this approach.

If you would like to learn more about how to implement and introduce behavioural based safety programmes, contact us on 0845 293 9850 or get in touch.

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