Behavior v. Culture

IMG_0091 - CopyThis employee puts his/her arm through hot pipes to reach a valve many times a shift.  The employees have reported forearm burns but no correction was forthcoming.  The behavior continued, the burns continued and when asked about it the employees stated that they advised management but nothing happened (since corrected).

It is not enough to just expect the employees to behave in a safe manner.  Systems thinking tells us, the culture of an organization applies pressure that influences what employees will say and do.

Behavior Based Safety applied well can be very beneficial in recognizing hazards and reducing injuries.  Whether you purchase BBS program or create your own it is important to remember several critical success factors.

Success factor one:  Leaders implementing BBS programs will be more successful if they start by assessing the organization’s readiness for such a program.  The organization must have a trusting environment.  Can employees speak up without fear of being ignored or dismissed?  Using a simple engagement survey or safety survey to understand employees beliefs around speaking up, trust in leadership and the non-verbal language at play.

Success factor two:  A communication system is in place that becomes a feedback loop.  Information must flow up, out and back in order for employees to feel valued, appreciated, and heard.  This is critical to reducing injuries, and turn over.  If an observation is conducted, what findings were corrected at the moment, what findings need additional steps and how will it be communicated and tracked throughout the organization?

Success factor three:  The non-verbal communication.  What is our non verbal language  saying when our verbal language says “Safety First”  Often, we have safety slogans that claim safety is first and yet we continue to leave a correction incomplete.  Organizations will encourage behavior changes and yet not correct the engineering issues at play.  This is where the Hierarchy of controls is very valuable.  It requires an organization to assess all possible solutions and pick the best for the situation.  This system approach allows for employees to participate in finding the solution without dismissing their efforts.

Behavior is influenced by culture. When implementing a BBS program remember to assess the current state, design a robust communication system that flows up, out and back and then do what you say, understand how the non-verbal language is competing with the spoken word.  For more details on implementing or rejuvenating your safety behavior observation program contact me.   I would be happy to provide tools and tips

Valerie Waterland, MS, ARM, MBB is a master blackbelt in Lean Six Sigma and a certified ISO 45001 professional.  She has been working with organizations for over 25 years to employee gold standard practices that reduce workplace injuries.  For more information