Concept of BBS

September 2017

The Concept of Behavioural Based Safety

A popular style of implementing workplace safety standards is behavioural based safety. The motivating concept for the worker is to protect yourself while working, so you can reap the rewards of your labor.

Protecting one’s self is not a new idea, for years precautions have been taken to avoid injuries while working. Armour used by knights was a sort of precursor for what is used on the job site today. The gallant knights of yore didn’t just want to be alive at the end of the day, they wanted to have the continued use of all of their facilities, and enjoy the fruits of their labor to the fullest.

How can we best apply the concepts of a behavioural based safety program? This system is derived from seven basic principles.

• Intervention: focus on the behaviours of employees, and determine how to improve these behaviours.

• Identify what can be applied externally to improve the behaviours to achieve your desired effect.

• Use interventions to create new behaviours. For example if eye safety is your goal, hang signs, update worn down signs, have employees read and sign a statement that highlights eye safety hazards and preventative methods.

• Focus on how applying your desired methods will benefit the user at the end of the day.

• Reinforce interventions to wherever possible in appropriate areas. Don’t have just one area where eye protection is available, make it available at multiple entrances.

• Use theories to inform. Don’t limit information, spread the word with signage, and reaffirm safety at appropriate meetings. Implement monthly quizzes and testing and reward with a point system that leads employees to a goal they can strive towards.

• Intervene with employees. Discuss and learn about their feelings about how effective a plan is for them, and how to improve it going forward. Planned safety meetings and reviews are ideal times to start.

Everyday Application

Putting this on paper is fine, but how can it be used in real life? By taking these principles and summarizing them with the ABC practices, we can clearly see its potential impact.

A precede B. B create C.

A= Activators precede, B= behaviour. Behaviours create, C= consequences, Positive or negative regardless.

Our Scenario

Our safety manager sees an increase in accidents around the upper facial area of some employees. She identifies this as an area for improvement. Splashing and debris alike are having an impact on workplace production. Most of the accidents are classified as near misses. One incident though requires emergency attention beyond simple first aid. The employee is treated and returns to work the following day. The safety manager has decided to positively impact eye safety and its awareness for all.

First she applies an activator, signs, she places more signs indicating that the required PPE (personal protective equipment) is available and needs to be worn with regularity. She replaces worn out signs, and instructs for this topic to be discussed at the beginning of each shift by supervisors.

Behaviours change. Everyone feels comfortable wearing the proper equipment. With up to date signage people understand that this isn’t an old policy, but an ongoing policy that everyone is serious about. Because it is more abundantly available, and it is now posted at every entrance it actually gets used more. When they have their monthly safety meeting some people inform the safety manager that some PPE is getting worn out and needs to be replaced. When these replacements are refilled, the team knows that the company is serious and will act upon the suggestions they reported.

Finally, consequences. The safety manager with support from upper management posts a board that employees can contribute to with pictures of their family. The team loves it because it reminds them of why they work, and what they have to look forward to at the end of the day. The board is posted in the breakroom, and it helps everyone remember that there are more faces behind the faces we see every day. Everyone understands that if we practice unsafe habits, some people may not go home in one piece, but if we practice safe habits, we can go home to the ones we love.

Applying these techniques, and tailoring them to your unique workplace situations should help raise awareness and build a team like atmosphere for the continued progression of a safe work environment.

Find out how to manage your business' health and safety better


Many employers are concerned about their reporting obligations for COVID-19/Coronavirus/SARS-CoV-2 under RIDDOR in the ongoing pandemic. You may be pleased to know that you do not have to report everything to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). We'll provide more info about when, what, and how to report.

The most common concern we've seen recently from employers is whether they need to report all COVID-19 and coronavirus testing results to the HSE. The short answer is no. According to the HSE: “There is no requirement under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013) to report incidents of disease or deaths of members of the public, patients, care home residents or service users from COVID-19. The reporting requirements relating to cases of, or deaths from, COVID-19 under RIDDOR apply only to occupational exposure, that is, as a result of a person's work.”

Generally speaking, the ordinary RIDDOR rules already cover COVID-19. You should only make a report under RIDDOR when one of the following circumstances applies:

• an accident or incident at work has or could have caused the release of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). (Report as Dangerous occurrence)

• a worker is diagnosed with COVID-19 due to occupational exposure. (Report as Disease)

• a worker dies because of occupational coronavirus exposure. (Report as Work-related death due to exposure to a biological agent)

The bottom line is that existing rules cover most COVID-19 measures, and most of the COVID-19 guidance comes from public health authorities rather than the HSE. The environment remains chaotic, but you can minimize your legal exposure by continuing your existing compliance steps. This will include communicating with your insurer about risks, following public health guidance, and communicating regularly with your workers or unions on any of their concerns.

© Gavin Coyle, 2021