Behaviour Based Safety 101

portrait gemma collins doyle


EHS Consultant


Back when Behaviour based safety (BBS) was introduced, it was almost as if a magic wand had been created for any struggling safety programs. It was seen as the Swiss Army Knife of safety programs; it was thought that it could take care of nearly everything. Today, it is accepted that this is another tool, along with more, that are needed to ensure a robust and functioning safety management system.

For some safety experts, they are still on the fence about whether BBS is actually the right tool for their organisation. My advice, do your research, be realistic about what it can achieve, if you do launch it expect it to take time and visit a site where it has been successful. Don’t expect this to be a fix all for your safety management issues!

What is Behavioural Based Safety (BBS)?

Behaviour Based Safety is a process that informs management and employee of the overall safety of the workplace through safety observations. BBS is intended to focus on the worker’s attention on their own and their peers’ daily safety behaviour. The goal of the BBS program is to improve the employee safety of the organisation.

BBS focuses on the actions and behaviours of individual employees. It puts the responsibility of safety on the shoulders of all employees, rather than just management alone.

Steps on how to set up a BBS

If you do decide to take the plunge on starting your own BBS program, try following the steps below.

Remember, even though BBS has had a bad reputation in some safety circles, like anything, when it is done well, the results speak for themselves. Having a Behaviour Based Safety program in place can significantly lower risks and help reduce/eliminate workplace accidents/incidents. As with any other safety management tool, the full benefits will only be seen if there is a successful implementation. Keep in mind too that this is great exposure for safety and gives everyone a chance to be part of the safety culture!

Step 1 – Commitment

Just like any other Safety related program, you need 100% buy in from Management and front-line management. For BBS to be successful this buy in is crucial.

Management needs to understand the goals that your BBS is hoping to achieve. Everyone needs to be on the same path and understand that its success depends on everyone being on the same page and being aligned to the same outcome.

Step 2 – Team

When in the planning stage, get your “A” team together! Try to select people that are already familiar with behaviour-based safety. If you don’t have people with that knowledge, then try and select people who have a genuine interest in safety.

Step 3 – Collect and Review Data

We all know how much the safety department captures! So much of the time, this data goes unused. Now is the time to use this data to your advantage. Review and analyse all data that has been collected from audits, to inspections. This will help you decide what tasks and jobs are the greatest risks and point to the areas that need the most improvement.

Step 4 – Create a Behavioural Checklist

Once the important part of reviewing your data is complete, you should have a clearly identified list of what behaviours are classed as the riskiest.

From this, you need to create a checklist that specifies all required behaviours to complete particular jobs. This checklist will then be used by your team during observations to log safe and unsafe behaviours.

Step 5 – Track & Measure

No point having these check lists unless you are going analyse them! Implement some kind of easy to use measurement system to help track and calculate the frequency of both safe and risky actions employees are carrying out while observations are taking place.

Step 6 – Carry out Behavioural Observations

Remember that “A” Team you put together? Now is the time to get them to work!

Set up a workable schedule for the team, make sure everyone is trained up and confident in carrying out the observations. Decide on the frequency, they can be monthly, weekly or daily, it all depends on the risks associated with each job.

Step 7 – Communication

This is the important bit and should be done in a way that is respectful to the employee and be a positive conversation as opposed to a negative one.

Once the observation is completed, the observer, should talk with the employee and give the feedback there and then. This is a great opportunity too to get more insight into the job that is being done the opinions of the employee.

Step 8 – Use your data

Now you get to get to use your data! Use the findings to create a safety strategy to help prevent future risk.

Step 9 – Measure your success & continuously improve

Reviewing your results on a monthly or quarterly basis will ensure that you will continue to make positive progress!


The positive effect from BBS

  • Safer, injury preventing practices
  • Reduction of workplace injury rates
  • Reduction of compensation claims and injury recovery costs
  • Give employees useful and practical ways to be safer
  • A happier workplace
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