What is Behavioural Safety Training?

Well, as the name suggests, it is about shining a spotlight on the attitudes and behaviour towards safety within an operation and gaining a consensus across the company that safety comes first at all times. Sounds simple, and to some degree it is, but to get there you often need to start at the beginning and write a whole new script that underpins company policy and champions the notion of safety over profit. Of course, many, many studies show that by doing that you actually increase profit anyway, but that is a bonus.

The concept of behavioural safety is so tightly bound to safety culture, it is impossible to talk about one without the other. The ultimate goal of any behavioural safety training programme is to improve the safety culture of the workplace by motivating individuals and teams to genuinely want to make their workplace a safe and productive one. How? By firstly identifying and defining safe and unsafe safety behaviour, then rewarding the safe and discouraging the unsafe. The Devil is in the detail of course, but it is a very simple concept.

Taking the BS out of Behavioural safety training
In recent years, Unions have, quite rightly, voiced concerns that behavioural safety is a movement that is all about blaming workers for mistakes, accidents and injuries at work. They fear that by empowering staff to take an active role in driving the safety practices in their workplace, when things go wrong, it is therefore perceived as being their fault.

At DWI, we can not emphasize enough what a dreadful and frankly cowardly approach this is by any employer. Behavioural safety is not about offloading responsibility from management to the employees, it is about working together to create an atmosphere of safe and fair working practices. A fundamental element of a good safety culture is that managers are as invested in a good safety culture as the rest of the workforce. It must be a company-wide concern and an important element of behavioural safety training is about empowering workers to be able to speak up when they see failures in the safety practices within the company, whether that is about faulty or outdated equipment, protective clothing, incident reporting, management attitude or anything else.

Not only that, a blame culture directly opposes the whole premise behind behavioural safety training, not only on a moral and fair basis but also on a practical one. The success of this type of training rests in its inclusiveness and that positive attitudes and behaviour towards safety are rewarded with positive outcomes for all those practising it. Moreover, for any behavioural safety training to have a good outcome it must be led by managers who have the control over organisational factors that can ultimately lead to accidents and incidents. This influence can be either direct effects such as policy, training, updating equipment etc, or by the effects of their behaviour and attitude towards safety.

Much more carrot, much less stick

Behavioural safety training is also about creating leaders that lead by example, that listen to and encourage staff, have clear objectives and outcomes and that put processes into place that support the front line staff for whom they are responsible. For example, not only supplying up to date protective equipment, but also ensuring that those using it know what to do when equipment fails, or a fire breaks out, or other incidents that may occur involving hazards that staff may not usually be in direct contact with. Supporting staff in this way builds trust, a crucial foundation for behavioural safety training and a powerful tool in reducing incidents that may otherwise be blamed on “human error”.

Behavioural safety is actually less about behaviour and more about motivation and intent. Life is all about consequences and outcomes, behavioural safety training should demonstrate that safe behaviour equals good outcomes, unsafe behaviour can equal seriously bad outcomes. Couple that with great leadership and support and risky and dangerous behaviour can be hugely reduced and even eradicated as the workforce as a whole find it unacceptable.

The result is that your company prospers within a healthy, happy safety culture, which is underpinned by instinctively safe behaviour.

The first step is to work out if this is where you are now, or if not, how to get there. Take our Safety Culture Survey and find out.