US study looks at behavioural approach to workplace safety

Wednesday, 28 January, 2009

A recent study by the National Safety Council in the US advances the field and effective use of behavioural safety by identifying key knowledge gaps that warrant additional research. The study pinpoints areas where increased data can enhance behaviour-based injury-prevention interventions and improve occupational safety and health.

‘Behavioural safety’ is becoming more popular as safety practitioners seek to better understand and develop strategies to prevent workplace injuries. Behavioural safety is the science of observing workers' behaviours to determine where a different behaviour or set of behaviours may have prevented or lessened the severity of injury. The study defines behavioural safety as an approach to improve safety performance through peer observations, goal setting, feedback and incentives for reaching safety goals.

The study recommends using behavioural safety as part of holistic safety programs that address psychological, social, engineering and organisational factors. Yet the study concludes that factors impacting the effectiveness of behaviour-based interventions need to be better understood. Areas recommended for research include the:

  • Impact of behavioural safety interventions on rates of injury, illness and fatalities.
  • Appropriateness of the basic elements of behavioural safety across different industry sectors.
  • Relationship between behavioural safety and a greater safety culture.
  • Role of performance feedback in creating behavioural change.
  • Effectiveness of tangible and non-tangible rewards on behavioural change.


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