Behaviourial-based safety aims to improve the positive consequences which in turn can improve safe, positive behaviour within the organisation.
By Hemant Sethi
The COVID-19 pandemic has led businesses into taking unprecedented measures to ensure the health and safety of employees as they return to work. At such times, where health, safety and wellbeing are paramount, special attention must be given to employee behaviour as a risk factor to be addressed. Since it is a known fact that unsafe employee behaviour is a major cause of accidents in workplaces, businesses cannot afford to ignore the importance of behaviourial-based safety (BBS) in keeping people safe at their workplaces during the pandemic.
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To improve workplace safety during the pandemic, organisations need to bring about a behaviourial change in employees, in addition to providing them with the equipment and a safe work environment. Taking a behaviourial-based safety approach is among the most effective ways of developing a safe work culture.
What is behaviourial-based safety?
A behaviourial-based safety framework is a way to evaluate employee behaviour at the workplace. It consists of three major parts that collectively form what is called the ‘ABC model’. These consist of three elements – Activators or Antecedents, Behaviour and Consequences. The elements can be briefly described as:
An activator may be anything that prompts an employee to act or behave in a certain manner at work. They can be a person, place, thing, or event that could affect an employee’s behaviour. Activators can be used only to prompt the desired behaviour, not enforce it.
Behaviour is the visible action of an employee at the workplace. Behaviour can be safe and unsafe. Behaviour-based safety involves observing both types of behaviours and developing solutions that encourage positive behaviour.
Consequences influence the future behaviour of the employees. They, too, can be positive or negative depending on the preceding behaviour. Behaviourial-based safety aims to improve the positive consequences which in turn can improve safe, positive behaviour within the organisation.
How a behaviourial-based safety framework can be useful in keeping workplaces safe during the pandemic?
Behaviourial-based safety is aimed at bringing permanent positive behaviourial change in employees and developing a safe work culture. By considering COVID-19-related attitude and behavioural shifts in a behavioural-based framework, businesses can create effective support systems for worker safety, employee morale, public health, and business continuity. A behavioural based safety framework can help with: –
Improving workplace safety
People returning to work are cautious about their personal safety. They are more aware and anxious about personal safety. Safe behavioural practices must become a habit and an important part of the workplace culture, for everyone’s benefit. Behavioural-based safety focuses on positive reinforcement practices that offer rewards and praise for good behaviour. Such an approach encourages employees to constantly strive and put their best behaviour forward. This results in employees being highly precautious at work. Thus, the overall workplace safety standard is significantly increased with behaviour-based safety.
Encouraging employee collaboration
Behaviourial-based safety is a collective effort that involves observing the behaviour of other employees and notifies others of unsafe behaviour. This also improves employee communication and collaboration. In these times of the pandemic, offices need to be exceedingly clear and consistent with their communication protocols. With open communication and collaboration, organisations get a clear view of what is working and what is not, so they can then collectively decide the steps to be taken to improve workplace safety.
Reduce costs associated with Covid-19 accidental infections
With behaviourial-based safety, organisations can end up saving finances related to insurance, treatment of Covid-19 infected employees, and other workplace hazard compensations. Additionally, they can also save indirect costs such as the lost working hours due to absence during the recovery period and time required to hire new employees in case of workplace safety lapses.
Challenges in implementing behaviourial-based safety
Behaviourial-based safety needs the support and participation of every employee of the organisation. In some cases, support from the top management may be lacking. Similarly, behaviourial-based safety involves real-time monitoring of employee behaviour which may be difficult after a time. The success of a behaviourial-based safety approach mostly depends on employee participation and it is important that the employees are sufficiently motivated to participate in the safety programme.
Businesses should consider adding a behaviourial-based safety framework to their Covid-19 safety protocols
The benefits of behaviourial-based safety concerning workplace safety are undeniable. In these times of the pandemic, while businesses are investing in physical measures to ensure their premises are healthy and safe to work in, they should also consider the behavioural implications on workplace safety.
Organisations should, therefore, try implementing a behaviourial-based safety approach to improve workplace safety in addition to their existing Covid-19 health and safety protocols. However, as mentioned earlier, organisations need careful understanding, planning, and implementation to make behaviourial-based safety a success.
(The author is Country Head, British Safety Council, India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)