Safety is universally accepted as a good thing, the right thing to focus on. It is a focus area around the globe for organizations (occupational safety, process safety, ergonomics), health care providers (insurance, behavioral health, gerontology, sports), government agencies (motor vehicle safety, pedestrian safety), and in educational systems (school security and safety). Safety has also become a major subject matter in recent headlines, and not in a good way. United Airlines, for example, has its fair share of media press in 2015 due to airplane incidents, the investigations highlighting several behavioral challenges that are not uncommon to other organizations
Organizations need solutions that work, solutions to make a significant difference in peoples safety. Solutions like Behavior Based Safety (BBS)! So why isn’t everyone doing BBS? For those who are not familiar with BBS, here is a brief summary of the methodology.
Briefly, Behavior Based Safety
BBS has been around for several decades now, heavily written and researched by safety professionals and behavior analysts alike. There are iterations of the approach to implementing BBS, with some common elements being prominent, and multiple evidence of success (see Beth Sulzer-Azaroff and John Austin, American Society of Safety Engineers, July 2000):
1) Identify and target behaviors that impact safety.
2) Define those behaviors precisely to measure them.
3) Develop and implement processes to measure those behaviors.
4) Provide feedback to the person being observed.
5) Analyze the behavior, looking for trends that need more systemic changes.
6) Provide reinforcement of progress.
So why isn’t Behavior-Based Safety the go-to answer?
Pointless! Stale! Boring! Lacks Results!
From time to time, organizations run into initiatives, programs, and just plain old “pet projects” that have resulted in one, all, or more of these words used to describe them. In the area of Behavior-Based Safety, researchers, consultants, and organizations from across the world will tell stories of positive results, culture change, and being a differentiator in safety performance. That being said, organizations have also been faced with the feedback of BBS being pointless, stale, boring, and lacking results. This would seem counter to the glowing reviews so many have written about.
In my experience, I have seen my fair share of successes and failures when it comes to BBS. It got to a point where I found myself working with a few like-minded individuals and said, “enough is enough.”
We knew BBS has made a difference.
We have applied research and experiences implementing BBS that worked.
We knew a step change in how BBS was implemented was needed.
To unlock the very essence and power of behavioral science applied to safety, and make it meaningful for all employees and key stakeholders of organizations, and to influence the naysayers, doubters and resistors, we delved into redefining how we implemented BBS and the very behaviors of interest. This effort became the very catalyst for repurposing BBS in a new way – what has been affectionately referred to as BBS 2.0.
BBS 2.0 started with the very focus of the process itself, namely safety.
Safety is the state of being “safe,” the condition of being protected against non-desirable consequences such as failure, damage, error, accidents, harm or death.
Safety can also be defined as the control of recognized hazards to an acceptable level of risk.
After defining what is meant by safety, my colleagues and I focused on one element that stood out to our team as different from traditional BBS: thecontrol of recognized hazards to achieve an acceptable level of risk.
In reviewing some literature and research in the field of BBS, we found a key element missing, a focus on the skill of hazard recognition, understanding risk, and how to make informed decisions to determine if a task was safe or unsafe to proceed. The very element of hazard recognition and risk mitigation is the very focus of BBS 2.0.
Direct observation and providing feedback is still in tact in BBS 2.0 as it is in the traditional BBS methodology. However, rather than observe for a targeted list of behaviors, the focus is on the performers ability to identify hazards, mitigate those hazards based on a risk assessment, and describe their decisions to perform the task based on the level of risk and their ability to perform it safely.
This skill-based approach has another value proposition, namely developing a skill that can transfer to other similar situations and contact multiple levels of reinforcement – what behavior analysis would term a behavioral cusp (a subject matter for a later post).
BBS 2.0 is new, different, and can be seen as a good thing to try but please note no empirical studies have been conducted to validate its purpose, other than this author’s anecdotal testimony that it is a great thing to do, makes a positive difference in people’s lives at work, and can make a positive impact for organizations around the globe in the name of safety.
It is the opinion of this author that organizations like United Airlines and other multi-national organizations would benefit from looking at behaviors that are broader than lifting at the knees, proper PPE, and other traditionally targeted behaviors. By utilizing a BBS 2.0 approach, skills such as hazard recognition, coaching, and feedback can be focused on as a group of behaviors that if developed and reinforced appropriately, will improve safety, improve employee engagement, and ultimately save lives.
Let us know your thoughts on BBS 2.0 in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to join bSci21 on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and via email subscription at the top of the page!
CNN (February 27, 2015). United warns pilots after ‘significant safety concerns’ (United Airlines memo to pilots outlines safety concerns. By Rene Marsh, CNN Aviation and Government Regulation Correspondent. Retrieved on www.cnn.com at 7:18 PM ET.
Daniels, A. (2013). What is Behavior-Based Safety? A Look at the History and its Connection to Science. Retrieved from www.aubreydaniels.com.
Sulzer-Azaroff, B., and Austin, J. (2000). Does BBS Work? Behavior-Based Safety & Injury Reduction: A Survey of the Evidence. American Society of Safety Engineers. July 2000, page 19-24.
About the author:
With over ten years experience, Manny has worked with organizations across the globe within the Fortune 1000. He is an accomplished practitioner in the field of Behavior Analysis, highly regarded by his customers and colleagues alike. Manny is especially skilled at facilitating business teams to execute strategic plans and preparing leaders to engage employees to reach their maximum potential. Manny holds the position of Director of Continuing Education and Product Development for ABA Technologies, a pioneer in online professional development of behavior analysts, and is also the President-Elect of the Organizational Behavior Management Network.
Manny Rodriguez and ABA Technologies, Inc provides products and services for Behavior Analysts and the general public. Online Professional Development in ABA, Coaching/Mentoring Behavior Analysts, Speaking engagements such as Workshops/Seminars/Webinars, and Expert Consulting in ABA, OBM, Instructional Design and Teaching Behavior Analysis. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.