On Your Best Behavior: Behavior-Based Safety
By: Pedro Mercado, CSHO, SHEP, COSM, CLCS, CRIS, CSSGB, VP of HSE and Risk Management
July 10, 2017
Use behavior-based safety effectively
Behavior-based safety helps determine why at-risk behavior occurs on the job and the steps necessary to change at-risk behavior into safe behavior. This method uses observation and feedback to encourage and reinforce safe behavior.
Behaviors selected for observation must be:
- Observable (can be seen or heard)
- Reliable (seen the same way by two or more people)
- Something over which an employee has control
- Described in a positive way (what should be done, not what shouldn’t be done)
Behavior-based safety observations must be objective—that is, based on what you actually see a person doing, not on opinions or interpretations about a coworker’s performance.
When you give coworkers feedback about safe behavior:
- Be specific about what you observed.
- Deliver feedback on performance immediately after or as soon after the behavior as possible.
- Identify the person or group to whom you’re giving the feedback by name.
- When you observe a coworker engaging in unsafe behavior, you must give corrective feedback—never ignore unsafe behavior that could result in an accident. Corrective feedback is giving information on what a coworker is doing incorrectly and also providing information for improvement.
When you give coworkers corrective feedback:
- Be specific and focus on the correct behavior only—don’t discuss other behaviors.
- Be objective and talk about the behavior, not the person.
Set a Good Example:
Have you ever worked with someone who inspired you? A hardworking person can have a powerful influence on his or her team, especially when he or she is working with someone who is new to the job or to the company. As the co-worker of a new employee, consider yourself the most important role model during his or her first few weeks. Your attitude and your respect of policies and safety procedures could save his or her life!
Be a Safety Mentor:
You know that the workplace is full of potential hazards. At, we have stressed the importance of doing your job the safe way, and we’ve given you a wealth of knowledge about the risks of the job and ways to stay safe. When you are working around others, especially if they are new to our workplace, it is your turn to share that knowledge to protect them and yourself. It may take a while for new employees to adjust and feel like they fit in on the job. Those that have never held a job before or were employed by a firm with a weak safety program will need considerable safety instruction and leadership. While managers will attempt to train them in workplace safety as thoroughly as possible, employees will naturally look to you for advice and information. Their early impressions of the way you value safety will set the stage for their future work habits.
Lead by Example:
In this important transition time, your actions will speak louder than your words. If you are careless, you demonstrate to a new employee that safety is not important at. If you try to impress others by wearing jewelry or loose clothing that can be hazardous on the job, you are ultimately putting new employees that are learning from and imitating you in danger.
Hazards don’t have to lead to an injury or illness:
When you’re considering a list of controls, think of the following (and in this order):
- Elimination and/or substitution: If you can remove the hazard entirely, or put some form of substitute in place, do that. An example would be removing a sharp edge on the corner of a machine so nobody could get cut.
- Engineering controls: Engineering controls involve re-designing the work area so that the hazard is eliminated or reduced. An example would be enclosing a noisy motor inside a sound-proof box.
- Administrative controls: Administrative controls involve modifying the way people work around a hazard to reduce the risk. An example might be limiting the number of hours someone works lifting heavy boxes from the end of a conveyor belt.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): PPE can be used to protect people who are working in the presence of hazards. PPE should only be used as a last resort, once the other forms of controls listed above have been tried. PPE may be used in combination with the other forms of controls, too.
If you have any questions regarding behavior-based safety or want to learn more about how IBTX can support your safety efforts, contact Pedro Mercado at firstname.lastname@example.org or 713.400.3404.