Behavior-Based Approach Can Enhance Construction Safety

Industrial / Construction, Safety News

The safety management philosophy of “I’m going to catch you doing bad things, and I’ll punish you for them” is far too prevalent on construction sites. To find a better method, consider what the world’s most successful manufacturers have learned: behavior-based safety works better. That’s the recommendation of the safety experts at Safety Management Group in Indianapolis.

When manufacturers realized the key to achieving performance and quality was to help their workers change their behavior, the situation improved. They began to take a different approach with all facets of the manufacturing process — including safety — and achieved success. Workers began to take a greater responsibility over all aspects of their jobs.

Behavior-based safety

One of the basic elements of behavior-based safety is recognizing that changes in behavior begin with changes in attitude. It’s unreasonable to expect a worker to act differently if he doesn’t have a genuine and personal interest in making a change. If safety becomes just one more top-down command workers are expected to obey “just because,” the best they’ll offer is grudging acceptance.

On the other hand, if workers are given a significant amount of control over safety in their workplace, and realize that they and their co-workers have the most to benefit, they will look at safety in an entirely new way.

That’s where a jobsite safety committee comes in. The committee includes representatives of each of the trades and/or contractor companies working on a site. Its primary purpose is increasing co-workers’ interest in and awareness of safer work practices.

Promoting safety through multiple channels

The committee works as a team to “market” safety to fellow workers, educating them about the importance of safety and monitoring their compliance, with an emphasis on recognizing “good” behavior, rather than penalizing “bad” behavior. Both workers and owners benefit from behavior-based programs, but they’re not the only ones. Outside contractors on a site gain from employees who have developed a better understanding of the value of safe work practices and a sense of self-determination and personal responsibility. That typically has the long-term effect of reducing claims, as well as other benefits that aren’t as easy to quantify, such as greater job satisfaction and an enhanced appreciation for quality.

A post on the Safety Management Group site gives additional details on behavior-based safety and shares real-world experiences with this approach. It’s well worth a read.


Behavior-based safety resources: