Behavior-based safety (BBS) methods entered their " heyday" in the 1980s and 1990s, largely driven by successful implementations in the military, petrochemical, and manufacturing industries.
Widely touted and praised, they were adopted by many firms. Notably, many firms stayed " on the sidelines," to determine whether the methods would have sustainability and staying power.
Properly done, these systems provide a new way to engage workers in safety, building on what we have learned about participative management over the last 100 years.
Behavior-based methods providing positive feedback for desired behaviors, and those which encourage worker input, will continue to provide solid injury reductions.
However, many BBS processes " miss the mark" and become a " paper chase."
In a three-year study conducted by the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) that was published in Professional Safety magazine in 2004, 300 construction firms were tracked. One half of the companies chose to implement a behavior-based, positive-reinforcement program. The other 150 companies did not implement a system.
At the end of the three-year study, the firms who chose to implement a behavior-based, positive-reinforcement system had injury rates that were 50 percent lower than the firms that refused to try behavior-based recognition programs.
There are numerous case studies that support these same findings, proving that these programs work. But to understand why they work, we must also explore why they fail.