safe behaviour

Managing your organisation’s people to ensure that they exhibit safe behaviour is often challenging and influenced by several factors.

As others have stated, the problem is we’re working with people!

All joking aside, it’s not only human factors that influence behaviour, it’s also the working environment, culture, climate, education, skills, expectations, resources, etc.

This article discusses the historical viewpoints of human factors and behavioural safety management. We briefly summarise the journey that safety has taken over almost a century, and discuss safety attitudes, organisational maturity, climate and culture. We offer some guidance for safety, human resource and training practitioners to increase their organisation’s safe behaviour.

Behaviour-Based Safety Antecedents

It all started with Heinrich in 1931 who created his model of accident predictability. He studied 75,000 workplace accidents over 10 years and concluded that 88% were caused by workers’ unsafe acts, 10% by unsafe physical and mechanical conditions and 2% were unpreventable and likely to occur. The Heirich model pronounced that behind every major accident, there are 29 minor injury accidents and 300 lapses in safety.

His model remained the foundation of workplace safety behaviour until 1990 when Deming argued that there is always a failure in management before any major incident. However even today, DuPont believes that 96% of workplace accidents are due to human behaviour.

And, hence we have those who follow a behavioural-based safety approach and others who focus on methodologies such as Safety I, Safety II, Zero Harm, Safety First, CSR and most recently, ESG.

Tap into Safety‘s stance is a holistic view that argues that the safe behaviour of our workers, is directly influenced by how we hire, induct, coach, train, supervise, manage, facilitate, support and empower them.

Worker Safe Work Attributes

Human behaviour may be influenced by family, education, upbringing, situation, health, peer pressure, individual experiences, drugs or alcohol, stress, workplace conditions, attitudes, work pressure, autonomy, control over the process, knowledge and skills, safety climate, psychosocial support, etc.

Before a worker starts a task they need to be:

  • Mentally prepared and psychologically present
  • Physically prepared and able to carry out the work
  • Adequately provisioned and protected to carry out the work, including the right equipment, PPE, skills and knowledge
  • Understanding of the risks associated with the work and the controls in place to manage them
  • Understanding of the emergency response plan related to the work
  • Supported refusing any unsafe work order, respectfully
  • Following safety instructions and procedures, at all times including when working alone
  • Focused and not distracted due to an outside or personal issue and not distract other workers.

See our microlearning course on Hazard Identification.

Read our articles on Mental Fatigue Impacts Worker Hazard Detection and Top Workplace Hazards in the Construction Industry.

Safety Attitudes, Climate and Culture

The focus should not only be on the worker’s attitude towards working safely. Team behaviour, departmental behaviour, behaviour during training sessions, and off-job behaviour, influence safe behaviour at work.

Team behaviour is generally governed by how team leaders or departmental heads display and support safety.  In organisations with a higher level of management commitment, safe behaviour is generally reflected in their teams. The importance of well-trained and supportive supervisors cannot be underestimated.

Research that measured safety climate levels has shown that mature organisations have an increase in activities such as visible safety checks, ceasing work when operations become unsafe, the priority of safety ahead of production, safety knowledge, rectifying safety problems, the use of PPE, training and hazard reporting.

See our extensive range of courses for Supervisors.

Read our article on Does Safety Climate Impact Hazard Recognition?

10 Elements of Safety Culture Maturity

The safety culture maturity of an organisation consists of ten elements. We can determine an organisation’s level of maturity by how far they progress on these elements and how they contribute to safe behaviour.

• Management commitment and visibility
• Communication
• Productivity versus safety
• Learning organisation
• Safety Resources
• Participation
• Shared perceptions about safety
• Trust
• Industrial relations and job satisfaction
• Training

Read our article, What is the Safety Culture Maturity of Your Industry?

See our course on Safety Culture.

Emerging Levels of Safety Maturity

Research has identified five levels of safety culture maturity that may help to guide your business on how to increase safe behaviour. Where do you think you sit on this continuum?

We begin with the first two levels: Emerging and Managing.

  1. Emerging – where we define safety in terms of technical and procedural solutions to comply with regulations. Organisations don’t see safety as a key business risk and the safety department has the primary responsibility for safety. Where many accidents are seen as unavoidable and as part of the job.
  2. Managing – where the organisation’s accident rate is average for its industrial sector but they tend to have more serious accidents than the overall average. These organisations view safety as a business risk and put management time and effort into preventing accidents. They solely define safety in terms of adherence to rules and procedures and engineering controls. Where although managers perceive that the majority of accidents are preventable, they blame the unsafe behaviour of front-line staff. The organisation measures safety performance in terms of lagging indicators such as LTI and we reward with safety incentives when LTI rates reduce.

Monitoring and Continuously Improving

The first two levels discussed above can be extended as follows:

  1. Involving – where accident rates are relatively low but are plateauing. The organisation understands how critical it is to involve employees in health and safety decisions to improve. Managers recognise that a wide range of factors causes accidents and the root causes often originate from management decisions. The majority of staff accept personal responsibility for their own health and safety. The organisation actively monitors safety performance and uses the data effectively to pinpoint areas to address.
  2. Cooperating – where the organisation places importance on all employees feeling that they are valued and treated fairly. The organisation puts significant effort into proactive measures to prevent accidents. The organisation actively monitors all data available including non-work accidents. They promote a healthy lifestyle and the importance of good mental health.
  3. Continuous improvement –  where a core company value is to prevent all injuries or harm to employees both at work and at home. The organisation has had a sustained period (years) without a recordable accident or high-potential incident, but there is no feeling of complacency. The organisation uses a range of indicators to monitor performance but it is not performance-driven, as it has confidence in its safety processes. The organisation is continually striving to be better and find better ways of improving hazard control mechanisms.

Read our article, How Can We Use Data to Improve Safety Performance?

What Does This Mean for Your Organisation?

Organisations that cultivate a positive safety climate benefit from superior hazard recognition and higher levels of perceived safety risk. However, hazard recognition by itself may not be sufficient to discourage workers from adopting risky behaviour, particularly in workplaces with a poor safety climate.

Where your organisation sits in terms of safety maturity may pre-determine the level of safe behaviour. But one simple lever you can use to increase safe behaviour is training.

The Tap into Safety Platform offers interactive and engaging training online and on smart devices. We focus on critical risks and the common workplace hazards that can lead to a fatality or serious injury within industry-specific scenarios. The Platform has over 200 out-of-the-box courses across a range of industry settings that can be completed in 5-30 minutes. If we don’t have what you need, we also build custom training content. If you’d like to know more, please contact us or click through to try a free online demo.

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