28th Oct, 2019 Read time 3 minutes

Behavioural Safety Approaches to HSE management

Behavioural safety is an area that has been increasingly studied in HSE circles in an attempt to develop better safety cultures in organisations. The field aims to develop more actions to assist human behaviour in health and safety and move away from the paper-based approach.

The definition of behavioural safety

Human behaviour concerns actions that are observed by others. This is important in a workplace safety context as over 80% of incidents recorded in workplaces are thought to have an employee’s behaviour as a contributing factor to the cause of the incident.

The behaviours that may contribute to the causation of incidents are referred to as ‘at-risk’ behaviours. Some of these behaviours are more subtle and can include aspects of a jobs ‘accepted practice’. Additionally, poor ergonomic design of workplaces can lead to poor behaviours adopted by the staff.


The different categories of human behaviour

In general human behaviour can be categorised into three areas; reflex, intended and habitual. Reflex behaviour includes incidents where workers have instantly reacted to an issue. Intended behaviour in health and safety is where a worker has responded intentionally to an incident. Habitual is where human actions are developed overtime and done without conscious effort.

In an HSE context, we are most concerned with the habitual behaviours as these are the ones that can have a significant and damaging effect on health and safety practices in the long term.


Some actionable ways to improve behaviour:

  1. Take specific actions against unsafe behaviours

Looking over your organisational record of incidents may turn up some connections between incidents and behaviours in the job. Once you have identified the trends you can start to work on minimising the risks by reducing the behaviour.

  1. Engage the workforce in the programme

Getting people to participate in the programme is one of the most important parts dealing with at-risk behaviour. This can be done through training and making reporting part of the company procedures.

  1. Ensure your managers are displaying visual examples of leadership

As a manager of an organisation trying to improve their behavioural safety, you should make sure you are clearly helping and praising your staff. Encouraging and fostering activities and methods of working that are good from an HSE perspective will help instil good behavioural practices in the future.


What are some of the recorded benefits of good behavioural safety?

An organisation that implemented a new behavioural safety system achieved a recorded £250,000 saving in terms of reduced steam leaks on the equipment. Reduction in unsafe practices will also lower the insurance premiums your business may have to distribute.

All these benefits, of course, come with the added benefit of reduction in the total loss of life and an overall safer workplace which cannot have monetary value placed upon it.


How HSG48 links into behavioural safety

If you are interested in learning more about what the current best practices around behavioural safety are, the HSG48 best practice is a good place to start. This standard breaks down how you can implement behavioural safety practices in your organisation.

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