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Research Paper on Behavior Based Safety

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Safety in the workplace is perhaps the primary concern for any employer worth his salt. This sample essay explains how safe employees are more productive, less likely to be injured, and can greatly reduce financial liabilities on employers.

Behavior based safety

Safety is and should be the main priority in the workplace. It can be reasoned that many workplace accidents can be prevented if the company or corporation takes the necessary steps to ensure that the working environment for the staff is safer. Proper workplace safety is concerned with the health and welfare of people, thus, many different models have been created and examined throughout the years. Businesses have tried to ascertain which approaches work better in protecting individual safety. 

Behavior based safety is considered to the application of science of demeanor change within the context of real world issues. It focuses on what people do, and seek to scrutinize why they do it and then apply a particular strategy or framework to improve the way they are performing that pertinent task. The basic foundation of behavior based safety is meticulous understanding, rather than what feels right.

In other words, behavior based safety does not operate on the mechanics of hypothesis, common familiarity or supposition, but rather is derived from an understanding that science is the only resolution to why people do what they do within the workplace. The traditional trajectory of a behavior based safety program falls within the lines of: common objectives; why these goals are expected; a specific or definitive data collection; data specifying the decisions about how best to proceed in reference to the collected data; feedback from employees and staff and a general review. Through a definitive and methodical approach, workplace safety has improved and will continue to improve over the years as more and more businesses begin implementing behavior based safety applications within their daily operations.

Literature review

Literature contends that workplace safety should and is a top priority, but also a leadership challenge. Research has pointed out that organizational influences such as style and involvement are the determining factors associated with safety in the workplace. The emergence of behavior based safety was derived in the 1930s by Herbert William Heinrich (Al-Hermoud et.al).

Communication and the variety of approaches associated with how leadership communicates with staff are also important factor in workplace safety (Carillo). As change is a continuous mechanism, static models to workplace safety unfortunately do not influence the objectives and priorities of individuals in the workplace. Thus, the only essential way to operate in the workplace that is viable is a behavior based approach using social contact and relationships to broadcast information and persuade individual actions. Behavior based safety is usually grounded on a proposed analysis from B.F. Skinner.

Whether working in a one-on-one workplace environment or at an industry site, behavior based safety speaks to the constructive shift in specific behavioral processes (Carillo; Geller). Behavior based safety then is more or less a scientific approach based on psychology, as B.F. Skinner was a prominent psychological theorist.

B.F.Skinner was primarily concerned with unobservable attitudes and feeling states. The majority of his research depicted what was known as design intervention with contemplation slanted towards internal feelings and attitudes. In laymen's terms, Skinner was focused primarily on the relationship dynamics with managers and workers and how they interacted within the workplace. Safety-related behavior is usually constructed on the premise that behavior is learned through the process of instruction.

Behavior itself usually begins as an outwardly directed instruction. In other words, people learn what to do by memorizing the directions and then perform the tasks accordingly. A habit is then formed. Some habits have been considered desirable, while others have not. Thus when examining habits within the framework of the behavior based safety approach, when workers take risks, they are intentionally choosing to ignore a safety precaution or taking a short cut to perform a task more efficiently.

While this is admirable in context, it is not always the best methodology within the framework of the scientific approach. The scientific underscore of this approach is that an undesirable habit must be changed into a good habit in order to be efficiently executed (Geller).

Recognition of workplace roles

It can be said that much of what behavior based safety principles foster is an recognition of why people do what they do in the workplace, as well as unearthing ideas to change this psychological knowledge, if needed or deemed necessary. More than 40 years of research in the science of behavior has proved that change in behavior requires an intrusion on behalf of leadership to lessen work-related risks and prevent injury.

The common tactic for companies and corporations is to evaluate their safety performance on the total recognizable injury rate, which tends to put individuals within that company or corporation in a knee-jerk state of mind rather than one focused on preventative measures (Gellar). In effect, by analyzing the injury rate, individuals become more reactive than proactive in ensuring that dangers and hazards in the workplace are kept to a minimum.

Researchers and theorists have sought to identity factors that affect employee safety behavior. A number of studies have ascertained that by making individuals aware of safety protocol that this decreases a potential for unsafe behavior. A numbers of studies have exhibited an undeviating and positive relationship between the scientific model of behavior based safety and employee engagement in safety etiquette.

Many studies such as Burling et.al (2002) and Clarke (2012) discovered that a shared vision of both leadership and employees must be in effect in order for the behavior based safety approach to be amenable to any kind of management. As behavior based safety includes open communication, fruitful propositions and allows employees to speak their mind once a methodical understanding has been presented, this model becomes the backdrop for leadership to adopt because it is both straight-forward and transformational (Conchie). 

Methodical approaches

Behavior based safety falls within the scope of methodical understand rather than conjecture, so management is able to enhance individual thought and motivation through doing what needs to be done irrespective of whether what is executed as a viable model for safety is what feels right. Behavior based safety shifts individuals away from the mechanics of "I", and focuses more so on a we technique.

In other words, what is good for the company, rather than what is good for the individual. Even with individual suggestion behind what works and does not work, behavior based safety strives towards a common goal in the end and assess the attributes of the goal (Conchie; Krause). Within literature that describes behavior based safety, there are inevitable pitfalls.

One inadequacy is a lack of constant or easily distinguishable definitions. As a result of the inconsistencies that exist in many studies and findings on behavior based safety, much clarification of the accretion of knowledge must be performed to better understand the implications of this type of approach. It would appear that the crux of the problem is associated with the term safety performance.

Safety performance may mean one thing at one time and quite another, at a different point in safety procedures. Safety performance may be a metric for behaviors of individuals, or it could be an organizational measurement for projected outcomes associated with implementation of the behavior based safety approach. Conceptualizing safety performance accurately has been the norm used to assess the psychological factors and the accuracy of those factors rather than outcomes associated with those factors.

Zohar (2000) noted that safety performance behaviors can be likened or treated similarly to job performance in overall context, but should be treated as a separate measurement tool than job performance because of employee engagement in these types of behaviors (Christian et.al). Where job performance is an individual metric, safety performance is aligned with the common goals of the conventional path of the behavior based framework.

Another pitfall associated with behavior-based safety is that companies and corporations often struggle with how to communicate safety as a priority over the production. While the behavior based approach should be examined through a common goal outlook, human inadequacies and focus have to be factored into the proverbial equation. Management's control over employee behavior is easier said than accomplished.

The behavior based safety approach seeks to make sure individuals remain attentive that personal anticipations limit one from seeing the value in changing conditions. The human factor is one of the key elements in any prevention program. It is essential to mention that the focus of behavior based safety is one of maintaining responsiveness rather than controlling individuals. There is an order to the methodology that has seen to be the sole component of influence that ultimately makes this management prototype a workable one.

Stacey (2007) noted that organizational results stem from the quality of contact and communication between individuals and groups and because many approaches to workplace safety examine incentives and rewards for employees rather than human interaction, the only feasible measurement tool for proper workplace safety is the behavior based approach (Carillo; Conchie).

Workplace Safety: A behavior based approach

Much of the behavior based safety approach is deemed workable because of the communication dynamic of it. While scientific in its application, the underpinning of the method is strengthening all elements of the organization through open communication. Openness and interpersonal abilities are needed to ensure that confidence is built between the corporation and the workers.

Neither legal safeguards nor strict fears are adequate to guarantee the free flow of information from the front lines to organization. Research has shown that trust levels affect a business's capacity to give and obtain information. Trust has also been noted to have an affirmative impact on managerial wellbeing and safety performance. Without trust, communication does not occur or rather communication becomes disjointed (Carillo). Thus, it can be stated that pitfalls can be avoided with proper channels of communication.

With the behavior safety approach being aligned with a scientific context, communication is even more important because the procedure is straight-forward and correlated to be helpful and useful with strict guidelines. 

It is true that communication does influence behavior with erratic outcomes and that management cannot control contacts, however, Stacey (2007) notes that in spite of the volatility factor that organizational structures can address this and ensure that behavior based safety is put into practice accurately. For Stacey (2007) it is all about priorities.

If a company or corporation is specifically structured either intentionally or involuntarily to understand the varying facets of behavior associated with staff, then they can better implement the approach taking into consideration both its application and impression on the overall corporate environment regardless of communication type. Safety must be continually monitored despite the effectiveness of the approach due to both the difficulty in definition and the unpredictability (Carillo). Despite the pitfalls associated with behavior based safety, companies have effectively employed this approach throughout the years with notable success.

Companies that have used behavior based safety

Komaki et.al (1978) was one of the first researchers to test the value of the behavior based safety approach. They assessed a food manufacturing plant noting the operational characterizations of safety related behavior on a checklist. The experiments provided feedback to workers 3-4 times a week, and gather specific data based on their observation. The results reflected that there were definitive changes in the practice of safe behavior in the food manufacturing plant as a result.

It is important to note that the researchers did not examine any type of injury rate initiative. Komaki et.al (1978) was deemed pioneering because it evaluated the effectiveness of safety-related behavior in the workplace. Subsequent research has been more specific in outlining the stipulations associated with the approach rather than a general underline of the approach (Krause).

Krause (1989, 1992) confirmed much of what was gleaned from Komaki et.al's (1978) review of workplace safety and the precise policy of the behavior based approach. noted expressly that certain techniques could be executed to directly affect the pertinent incidents in the workplace. The analysis stressed constructive vocal feedback from management to employees and then employees to management as a way of strengthening the common goal scope associated with behavior based safety.

Krause (1992) also noted that businesses needed to develop a self-sufficient means for incessant progress along the lines of thinning potential risks connected in the workplace by training administrators and managers to properly scrutinize behavior and generally review the general protocol of the business (Krause). Studies following sought to develop further what had been understood through the work of Komaki et.al’s (1978) study of the food manufacturing plant and the efficiency of the behavior based safety procedure.

British Petroleum: 2010 Disaster

The company, BP, took several steps following the oil spill in 2010 to reinforce its managerial safety culture. A study performed in 2005 on BP exclusively used statistical analysis to categorize which factors were significant to safety performance. The data was analyzed from different areas within the company including traction, chief incident declarations, high plausible incidents as well as dependability assessments.

To better ascertain the essence and key constituents of a strong protection culture, field visits were also performed to generate what would be known as the incomparable established superlative safety culture. From the array of data, BP was able to confirm specific attributes that all companies and corporations should follow to have a notably idyllic safety culture.

These characteristics included informedness, which specified communication in a loop type format, where it worked both ways; mindfulness, where weak issues were reported and sought to be turned into opportunities; learning, which allowed for more competency in cross-training efforts regarding safety mechanisms within the company; fairness, which defined what was expected and the consequences of any kind of positive or negative action; respectfulness, which related to encouraging all employees and staff to participate in workplace safety;  as well as an assessment model that would evaluate the strengths and weaknesses associated with the approach itself.

BP noted that responsiveness was raised and enabled a detailed conservation on what could be done to improve their workplace safety, as well as the importance of behavior based safety on a global scale (De Santis et.al). It would seem that much of what BP was able to understand about the behavior based safety approach was that workplace issues arise from relationships, or rather the lack of relationships individuals have in the workplace, rather than a faulty mechanism within the structure.

Gittell (2003, 2009) expressed that the healthcare industry has been resourceful in utilizing the behavior based safety approach. Patient satisfaction has improved significantly, in addition to operational expenditures being lowered through improved associations between individuals. Research from Gittell (2003, 2009) specifically outlined that through the assessment of measuring relationship quality (Carrillo) as noted by the aforementioned example of BP; there were lower accident rates as a result. This indicated that the behavior based approach was in fact a viable mechanism for the workplace.

In addition to BP and the usefulness of the behavior based safety approach in the study by Komaki, DuPont has utilized the approach for more than 30 years. Their program, entitled, STOP,

"has helped organizations prevent injuries by increasing safety awareness and helping people talk with each other about safety. Thousands of companies and government organizations worldwide have realized not only the human benefits of this program but also the impact in real dollars and cents" ("Welcome to DuPont™ STOP™").

STOP is determined based on what are considered to be tested beliefs that have been proven to help lessen workplace occurrences and probable environmental injuries. The mechanics of STOP are:

"that all injuries can be prevented; that employee involvement is essential; that management is responsible for preventing injuries; that all operating exposures can be safeguarded; that training employees to work safely is essential; that working safely is a condition of employment; that management audits are a must; and that off the job safety is to be emphasized"

The STOP program has been quite effective and has been recognized in many human resources magazines such as HR Workplace and Safety Magazine.

Aubrey Daniels International has on their website, a behavior-based safety blog which has a plethora of articles that speak on what to do following an accident and the promotion of a safe working environment. One of the notable aspects of their website is the emphasis on reliable processes and equipment methods. For Aubrey Daniels International this means examining facets of the organization that need overhauling.

This is in line with the typical protocol of the behavior based safety approach and the effects of this disciplined scientific technique. The blog features videos on the benefits of using this approach and expands a broader discussion on the quality of a safe environment for working in spite of the costs associated with it. It would seem according to Aubrey Daniels International that much of the focus of many organizations in adopting the behavior based safety approach is the cost or rather time associated with implementing such a procedure (“Leading Ideas Behavior-Based Safety"). Yet, workplace safety has been a noteworthy topic for years and it is essential for companies and corporations to institute practices and procedures that keep their workers safe and this scientific approach seems to be viable based on literature and overall practice.

Why behavior based safety works

In spite of criticism by Eckenfelder (2004) regarding behavior based safety cost and time, the approach is commendable and appropriate in its application to the workplace. There are a plethora of programs that companies and corporations can execute without spending significant amounts of expenditures on them. These programs vary in detail and commitment, but the same goal always ends up being eliminating the potential for injury (Conchie). 

As behavior based safety is a topic that originated in the 1930s via Herbert Heinrich, there have been several configurations of it that have come throughout the years. It is important to note that behavior based safety is by no means a quick fix to serious or grave workplace problems, nor is it extremely extensive. At its core, behavior based safety works because it is an inclusion mechanism for interaction with all in the workplace working towards the common goal of an acquiescent environment for working.

Works Cited

Al-Hemoud, Ali M., and May M. Al-Asfoor. "A behavior based safety approach at a Kuwait research institution." Journal of Safety Research 37.2 (2006): 201–206. Print.

Carillo, Rosa A. "Relationship-Based Safety: Moving Beyond Culture & Behavior."Professional Safety (2012): 35-45. Print.

Christian, Michael S., Jill C. Bradley, J C. Wallace, and Michael J. Burke. "Workplace Safety: A Meta-Analysis of the Roles of Person and Situation Factors." Journal of Applied Psychology 94.5 (2009): 1103–1127. Print.

Conchie, Stacy M. "Transformational Leadership, Intrinsic Motivation, and Trust: A Moderated-Mediated Model of Workplace Safety." Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 18.2 (2013): 198–210. Print.

De Santis, Cinzia, Patrick Hudson, Matthew Lawrie, and Diane Chadwick-Jones. "Safety culture: ‘Black art’ or ‘Paradigm shift’?" Institution of Chemical Engineers (2008): 25-28. Print.

Geller, E S. "Behavior-Based Safety and Occupational Risk Management." BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION, 29.3 (2005): 539-561. Print.

Krause, T R., K J. Seymour, and KC M. Sloat. "Long-term evaluation of a behavior-based method for improving safety performance: a meta-analysis of 73 interrupted time-series replications." Safety Science 32 (1998): 1-18. Print.

"Leading Ideas Behavior-Based Safety." Aubrey Daniels International, 2013. Web. 31 May 2013. <http://aubreydaniels.com/leading-ideas-behavior-based-safety>.

"Welcome to DuPont™ STOP™." DuPont, 2013. Web. 31 May 2013. <http://www.training.dupont.com/dupont-stop>.



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