Where does behaviour based safety start


Human beings are highly functional thinking creatures as compared to many living beings and lower category of species. The extraordinary thinking faculty, which potential-wise, awards/enables people with tremendous capacity to perform superlatively in any field, makes them unpredictable, behaviorally.

There is no fixed line of response. Many a times, they commit mistakes, create hazards, adopt unsafe gestures/positions which hurt them and many others too, very seriously, even resulting in death. Sometime back, a fully loaded and over-crowded bus fell into the river, breaking the side-barrier of the bridge, resulting in death of over 50 people. The driver lost his control since he was talking on the phone and had less concentration on driving. The reason can be described as simple – but, what are the consequence– calamitous.
How to take care of such situations? How to groom, prepare and direct the driver to stick to safe driving procedures and etiquettes? How to mold his unsafe behavior to a safe one? A million-dollar question and worrisome situation?

Is it enough to cover frontline workmen for BBS?

Traditionally, at most of the places where the BBS has been applied, it has focused on employees engaged in, and close to the operating environment. At several companies, workers’ union have strongly opposed BBS on the grounds that it wrongly identifies only the workers’ behavior responsible for accidents and ill-health.

It is pertinent to quote here a live example of ‘BEST’s enquiry into a large number of road accidents involving BEST buses and its drivers. When the enquiry team was making rounds at the depot, they saw a bus-driver sitting on the driver’s seat. The team members called him to come down and narrate the reasons for such large number of accidents before the team. The driver, in turn, requested one member to enter in the driver’s cabin and see the actual situation personally.

The enquiry team was surprised at such a counter-call from the driver and was a bit annoyed as well. The driver sitting in the cabin, again requested another member to come up and see the conditions of the cabin. With some hesitation, the member went up to the cabin and the driver showed him the horribly unsafe conditions in the cabin, such as, the broken chair; resting on some loose pieces of bricks; a very loose steering wheel vibrating badly; poorly lit cabin; unreliable brakes and a series of other defects/problems.

These are not being addressed despite repeated reminders and the buses are forced to run on the road in such shabby conditions. The driver very politely remarked – “Sir, you all have come to investigate, as to why the number of accidents are on the increase. Kindly investigate, in turn, why shall the accidents not happen under such circumstances”?

The above incident is shocking but full of lessons.

“What about the roles, involvement and behavioral change of the senior management team, including the contractors, sub-contractors, CEO, management cadre, which hold the key to resource allocation, demonstrating commitment for safety in public, establishing safety culture and complying with all the EHS regulations and systems?”

Health and Safety Authority, U.K, recommends ‘BBS is about everyone’s behavior, not just the frontline.’ BBS stems from the field of organisational behaviour analysis. The focus in both organisational behaviour analysis and BBS is behaviour. The overarching theme in behaviour analysis and BBS is that behaviour is maintained by what occurs after it (consequences).

‘Total Safety Culture’

The aim of a safety initiative is a Total Safety Culture. The human life is invaluable and precious that an all-out effort and initiative is required to save the life and limbs; protect and nourish health; be in a healthy/fit/active condition. More than a priority, individuals should hold safety as a ‘Value’, take responsibility for safety of own and all co-workers. Our sense of responsibility should go beyond the call of duty.

It is important to use Behavioral Science to eliminate/control hazards, inculcate anticipatory outlook and habit. Think before you act, not the other way, which may prove very costly and even unmanageable at times. Important steps for managing hazards are – Anticipation, Recognition, Evaluation and Application of controls. These need to be ingrained in our basic behavior.

Some important requirements for a worthwhile approach shall be– a strong management commitment towards maintaining and improving behavioral safety; open and trusting communication at various levels of hierarchy; a strong, consistent, timely reaction to the discovery of unsafe acts laden with the possibility of an incident.

The most effective point to be chosen in the line of hierarchy of the organization shall be the top management, better the CEO/Managing Director, who holds even the legal responsibility of the ‘occupier’ of the unit. They must maintain a strong management commitment towards maintaining and continually improving behavioral safety, witnessed in the regular acts of individuals at management level, and through its channels/line of control to the frontline employees who execute the work.

Behavioral attunement is required in the managers and the engineers, including the designers of equipment and processes, which shall aim to understand the causes behind the incidents or out-of-control situations at workplaces. Subsequently, the pro-active and preventive measures shall follow, to nip in the buds, the likely unsafe conditions/situations.

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