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Behaviour Based Safety (BBS) is widely used and implemented in Europe and the USA. The concept is simple: in short, your behaviour determines your safety. Unfortunately, South African businesses have been slow to embrace the concept, with occupational health and safety already seen as a grudge spend.

Let’s look at some examples:

When you get into your car do you put the safety belt on immediately, or do you wait for the car to remind you via an alarm? Do you speed in your car? Do you text or take calls when driving?

If you answered yes to the first and no to the rest, you have acted safely – apart from the other drivers you may encounter on the road. You can’t answer, “sometimes”. It’s yes or no.

So let’s take this concept to work. Do you adhere to safety requirements? Do you report near misses? Do you wear the required PPE? These questions should not be asked daily or on every shift. If you have a behaviour based safety culture, the entire business will act safe. This will lead to less near misses and or potential incidents that will bring down the accident ratio. A simple system to implement but resistance to change can make it difficult.

Implementing BBS, organisations can:

  • Improve employee health and welfare
  • Increase job satisfaction
  • Improve employee retention rates
  • Lower or eliminate cost of worker’s compensation claims
  • Reduce costs related to employee medical leave and absenteeism

Step 1: Establish a Need for Change
Recognise that a current system that relies on systematic preventative measures and controls, and reactive training and behaviour correction, is not successful in increasing long term workplace safety.

Step 2: Create a Plan of Action
Define the elements of a new culture of workplace safety. Establish clear goals, measurement tactics, enforcement procedures, and feedback systems. This is where you may find the input of a consultancy firm like Hesscon invaluable. Build a timeline for organisational change and set benchmarks for short-term wins and long-term milestones. Celebrate positive behaviours and achievements.

Step 3: Plan for Implementation
Introduce workplace safety as the new culture and “lifestyle” of the organisation. “The way we do it at (your company name). Administer a brief safety attitude questionnaire to obtain baseline information of employees’ existing knowledge, future needs, and preferred training or learning style. Provide general BBS training to all staff with an explanation of the general principles and goals. Encourage employees to consider and share outside-the-box ideas to improve job efficiency and safety and promote routine feedback.

Step 4: Put Energy into Implementation and Sustainability
Launch the new programme with a spirited kick-off event promoting positivity and overall commitment. Regular communication, consistent support, and ongoing feedback at all levels of the organisation are critical for the success of the program.

Once you have the system in place remember to keep on driving it, otherwise it will become a tick box exercise. Management has to be involved to make this a success. If everybody acts safely we will mitigate our risk.