Behavioral based safety is a broad term used in fields that require workers to adhere to safety precautions and restrictions. It’s the use of a psychological theory to influence behavior and, in turn, safety on site. And, what is a more relevant example when it comes to the importance of safety than construction?
Construction is a dangerous occupation with a high risk for injuries and fatalities. In fact, Business Insider lists the construction trade as the 5th most dangerous occupation in America. The fatal injury rate in 2019 was 40 people per 100,000 full-time workers.
So, it’s clear that, in some way, intervention into keeping construction workers safe is necessary. Enter behavioral-based safety.
In this article, we’ll be talking about how construction companies can use BBS and positive reinforcement to reduce fatalities and injuries in the construction field.
The dangerous nature of the construction industry means that safety should always be a number one priority. So, how can behavioral based safety be used in a construction setting?
BBS proposes a set of ABCs to observe when you’re implementing the theory. These are: activators, behaviors, and consequences.
What these ABCs refer to is that every event or action leads to or triggers a behavior. This behavior, in turn, leads to either a positive or negative consequence.
The goal of BBS is to make sure that these consequences lead to desired outcomes like profitability, productivity, and reduced risk.
In BBS, you reinforce by either rewarding or punishing the behavior. While a reward is generally more used and is more effective, punishment can also act as a deterrent to stop the undesirable behavior from happening again.
Either way, the outcome should be to shape behavior in such a way that good behaviors occur more in the future.
In construction, it is obvious that the risk of fatalities and injuries is a significant one. Implementing BBS means rewarding desirable behaviors that adhere to safety regulations on-site, or punishing those that don’t.
When you reward positive behaviors, they are far more likely to happen again. Let’s discuss how fatalities and injuries can be reduced by using a BBS approach that focuses on positive reinforcement.
The importance of reducing fatalities and injuries.
Of course, construction companies and managers want to make sure that there are no fatalities and injuries happening under their watch.
But saving lives and livelihoods, while extremely important, is not the only reason safety should be properly adhered to and regulated. Unfortunately, it is true that fatalities and injuries are also expensive.
It is estimated by various studies that around 85% of accidents in construction can be attributed to unsafe acts. And, when these accidents occur and result in a fatality, the cost of this employee fatality includes things like violation fines, legal fees, and compensations. This can work out to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Lastly, BBS also affects productivity. With the possibility of a positive reward laying before people, they are far more likely to work hard and be vigilant.
So, it is clear that reducing fatalities and injuries is important not only in terms of lives but also in terms of profitability and productivity.
How can you use behavioral based safety to reduce these accidents and trigger the positive effects we just mentioned? The best thing to do when implementing BBS, in this case, is to focus on behavior shaping.
Yes, this is the focus of BBS in general. But, it’s especially significant in this case because unsafe behaviors may lead to serious accidents. So, you really need to shape and mold your workers’ behaviors. You need to emphasize the fact that their behaviors can save lives.
There are many ways that you can do this. Some companies use rewards that change behavioral consequences from negative to positive. Others focus on reducing the activators that cause these behaviors in the first place.
Whether you tackle the ABCs from the end or the beginning, the result should be the same. Behavior should change for the better.
So, how do you go about this? First, you could try changing the consequences. For instance, you could introduce things like reward systems for adherence to safety regulations. You could also opt for the classic “__ days without an accident” trick. This gives your staff something to work towards, together.
Another option is to change the activators. You’ll need to be ready to observe and intervene when necessary. If you are on the ball and observing activators that cause unsafe behaviors, you’ll be able to practice intervention and stop these activators altogether. This, in turn, prevents the behavior from ever happening in the first place.
There are multiple examples of when BBS has succeeded in reducing fatalities and injuries. One such example happened at a Shell LNG construction site in Nigeria. After implementing a BBS approach to safety, the project achieved a whopping 77% reduction in injury rates!
They did this with an approach that focused on the observation of behavior.
The project team drafted a list of unsafe behaviors and encouraged workers to avoid these behaviors. Observers used checklists to give feedback and monitor safety. Acknowledging positive behaviors with a checklist is a way of reinforcing them. And, as a result, unsafe behaviors were shaped for the better.
You can read more about the case study and its findings here.
Reducing unsafe behaviors that lead to fatalities and injuries is a crucial step in the construction process. With behavioral based safety, you can use tools and processes to help you along the way. This will help to keep workers safe while improving productivity and reducing costs.
If you are interested in implementing BBS, check out SkillSignal. Our all-in-one safety and compliance app allows you to log observations, offer safety training, and provide incentives for favorable behavior. This will help you prevent incidents and ensure your construction projects run smoothly!
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