Behavioral based safety (BBS) is an approach that construction companies can take to improve the safety culture and thus the conditions on a construction site. It is based on the theory that reinforcement can influence future behaviors.
For example, if a worker reports an observed safety violation, they can be positively reinforced by a reward. As a result, it will lead to this type of behavior being repeated going forward. On the flip side, there are also negative reinforcers and consequences like punishments for undesirable behaviors.
We all know that improved safety can have a ton of positive effects. It can affect productivity, profits, communication, and worker satisfaction. But how does this specific approach fare?
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the pros and cons of taking a behavioral based safety approach on construction sites.
One of the things that BBS is all about is engaging workers and getting them to really throw themselves into ensuring safety for themselves and others in the workplace.
BBS aims to offer incentives for ‘good behavior’. For example, alerting superiors to safety violations or simply taking measures to avoid these altogether. These incentives can come in the form of a reward that reinforces the behavior and makes it likely to happen again.
Positive reinforcement and reward is something people will want to aspire towards. As such, employees will be far more inclined to participate – whether it be in day-to-day safety precautions or specific safety training programs.
When properly implemented, behavioral based safety programs and procedures can actually save your construction site time and money in the long run.
This is because, naturally, less accidents mean less resources wasted. For example, proper safety precautions can help workers to avoid accidents that lead to broken machinery, injured workers, and having to redo projects. As such, costs go down as you are able to manage time better.
Workers can also become more productive when behavioral based safety is implemented. With the right safety precautions set in place, they can complete jobs far more quickly and efficiently.
The theory that backs reinforcers to influence future behaviors proposes both negative and positive reinforcers. However, positive reinforcement is the better option.
This is because the presence of positive incentives to perform well can lead to a sense of employee satisfaction. Workers will feel like their hard work is being recognized, appreciated, and rewarded.
It also encourages accountability. As such, it allows people to understand when they have gone wrong and when they have succeeded.
With satisfied employees comes improved communication between people on all levels of the construction process. Managers can establish a sense of trust and security between themselves and their workers. Employees can work together to achieve the same goals. Overall, this helps to foster better working relationships.
One of the most important benefits of behavioral based safety programs is that they can provide a framework and point of reference for future projects.
BBS is not just about providing incentives. It’s largely about studying the action that leads to behaviors that ultimately lead to either positive or negative consequences.
Once the action and subsequent behaviors have been identified, safety managers can begin to intervene in ways that change behaviors and improve the consequences thereof.
Studying all of your workers and their behaviors is a lengthy process. However, it provides you with data that allows you to identify when safety may be at risk. You can also use this data to choose which workers will do best at certain tasks – thereby improving workflows.
Of course, there are some cons to behavioral based safety programs. In fact, it is a subject that has caused a divide in high-risk industries like the construction industry.
Some believe that it is a great way to maintain safety, while many believe otherwise.
The latter is largely due to the fact that BBS is definitely a difficult procedure to maintain. If it is not done properly, it can actually have adverse effects like resentful workers and even lower safety on site.
Gathering data on behaviors and identifying the actions that lead to them (as well as the consequences that occur) can be hard to do without the right tools.
This is why it is so important to use BBS to provide your workers with positive reinforcers. In addition, you need to provide your company with a well-informed framework going forward. If you are going to use BBS, it should inform the entire culture of your construction company and site.
Another problem that BBS can have is that it may, at times, skew reports.
When people are faced with the option of either a reward or a punishment, they may behave in such a way to avoid accountability when things go wrong. They may also try to pretend that they have adhered to all safety precautions so that they can be rewarded.
Again, to solve this problem, BBS needs to inform the culture of your company. As such, it may do you well to take advice from behavioral based safety experts. Also, do your research and dedicate entire teams and managers to the implementation of this kind of program.
While there are some cons to behavioral based safety programs, there are ways to ensure that they are implemented properly. Changing your company culture to fit a BBS framework and using positive rather than negative reinforcers is a great start.
Another great way to keep track of your workers and offer rewards is to make use of an app like SkillSignal. SkillSignal is an all-in-one safety and compliance application that offers an easy and interactive way to log data and ensure compliance. Whether you decide to implement BBS or not, SkillSignal can help improve safety and compliance on all jobsites.
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