Kevin Ian Schmidt

Behavior Based Safety Programs: A Comprehensive Guide

n the realm of workplace safety, Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs stand out as powerful tools for preventing incidents and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. While many organizations have implemented BBS, there’s always room for enhancement to ensure its sustained success. But even the most well-intentioned BBS initiatives can benefit from a tune-up. This comprehensive guide explores strategies and best practices to elevate your BBS program, turning it into a robust framework that not only identifies unsafe behaviors but actively promotes a safer workplace

Understanding the Core Principles of Behavior-Based Safety:

To improve any BBS program, it’s crucial to grasp its fundamental principles. BBS focuses on observing and addressing at-risk behaviors by engaging the workforce and fostering a collective commitment to safety. Recognizing these core tenets sets the stage for effective enhancements.

Sure, your BBS program might excel at pinpointing unsafe actions. But the true ascent lies in transitioning from observers to motivators. Here’s how:

  • Focus on the positive: Shine a light on safe behaviors just as much as you address the unsafe ones. Acknowledge and celebrate positive choices – they’re the stepping stones to lasting change. Foster an environment where safety is not just a rule but a shared value.
  • Embrace feedback loops: Open communication is your oxygen. Encourage employees to report not just safety hazards, but suggestions for improvement. Listen actively, address concerns promptly, and demonstrate that their voices matter.
  • Involve everyone, everywhere: BBS isn’t a solo climb – it’s a team expedition. Engage all levels of your organization, from front-line workers to top management, in shaping and implementing safety initiatives. Ownership breeds commitment.
  1. *Responses to unsuccessful Behavior Based Safety Program survey

Building a Culture of Shared Responsibility:

A successful BBS program isn’t just about rules and checklists; it’s about fostering a collective sense of responsibility for safety. Here’s how to build that foundation:

  • Lead by example: Actions speak louder than words. Leaders must actively embody safe behaviors, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to creating a safer workplace.
  • Empower employees: Equip your team with the knowledge and resources they need to make informed safety decisions. Train them to identify hazards, intervene in unsafe situations, and champion safety practices.
  • Celebrate milestones: Take the time to acknowledge and celebrate safety achievements, big and small. Recognition fuels motivation and reinforces the importance of a safety-first mindset.


Data-Driven Decisions, Sustainable Results:

Numbers might not tell the whole story, but they can illuminate valuable insights. Leverage data to continuously refine and optimize your BBS program:

  • Leveraging Technology: Explore the integration of technology, such as mobile apps or wearables, to streamline the observation process.
  • Track leading and lagging indicators: Monitor not just incident rates, but also near misses, safety observations, and employee feedback. This holistic approach paints a clearer picture of your safety culture.
  • Analyze trends and patterns: Identify areas where unsafe behaviors are most prevalent, and tailor your interventions accordingly. Data-driven decisions lead to targeted solutions.
  • Regularly evaluate and adapt: Don’t get set in your ways. Periodically assess the effectiveness of your BBS program and make adjustments as needed. Agility is key to long-term success.
*Responses to unsuccessful Behavior Based Safety Program survey

Real-Time Intervention Strategies:

Immediate Feedback:

In the fast-paced world of workplace safety, timing is everything. And when it comes to Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs, immediate feedback isn’t just a perk – it’s a game-changer. Here’s why:

  • Strike While the Iron is Hot: Imagine witnessing a near miss. The adrenaline pumping, the lesson still vivid. That’s the exact moment when feedback has the most profound impact. Delaying it dilutes the learning opportunity, leaving the lesson lost in the daily grind. Immediate feedback seizes the moment, solidifying the connection between action and outcome, driving lasting change.
  • Nip Negative Nudges in the Bud: Caught an unsafe behavior in the act? Prompt intervention is critical. Immediate feedback allows you to address the issue right then and there, before it has a chance to become a bigger problem. It’s like putting out a spark before it grows into a wildfire, preventing potential accidents and building a culture of real-time safety awareness.
  • Positive Reinforcement on Speed Dial: Witnessing a safe act deserves instant applause! Timely recognition amplifies the positive impact, encouraging employees to repeat these behaviors and set a strong example for their peers. Imagine the boost in morale and safety mindset when a “job well done” rings out while the safe practice is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
  • Building Trust and Transparency: When feedback is prompt and open, it fosters trust and transparency. Employees understand the program’s purpose and see its direct impact on their daily work. This fosters a collaborative environment where safety becomes a shared responsibility, not just a top-down mandate.
  • Making Data Count in Real Time: Immediate feedback isn’t just about words; it’s about harnessing data for real-time insights. Imagine a system that tracks observations and feedback in real-time, identifying trends and areas for improvement as they emerge. This empowers you to adapt your BBS program on the fly, making it a dynamic force for continuous safety improvement.
  • Remember: Immediate feedback isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a critical ingredient for a thriving BBS program. By prioritizing real-time insights, you’ll unlock its full potential, transforming it from a passive observer to an active driver of a safer, more productive workplace. So, ditch the delays, embrace the power of immediate feedback, and watch your BBS program blossom into a safety champion!


Behavior-Based Coaching:

Behavior-based coaching is a crucial component of a Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) program, enhancing its effectiveness by providing personalized feedback and support to employees. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to integrate behavior-based coaching into your BBS program:

  1. Understand the Basics of Behavior-Based Safety (BBS): Before implementing behavior-based coaching, ensure your organization has a solid understanding of the principles of BBS. This includes identifying at-risk behaviors, creating a positive safety culture, and fostering employee engagement.
  2. Define Clear Objectives for Behavior-Based Coaching: Establish specific objectives for incorporating coaching into your BBS program. These could include reducing specific at-risk behaviors, improving overall safety culture, or enhancing communication about safety concerns.
  3. Train Coaches and Observers: Provide comprehensive training for coaches and observers involved in the program. Ensure they understand the principles of behavior-based coaching, effective observation techniques, and how to provide constructive feedback.
  4. Develop a Coaching Framework: Create a structured coaching framework that outlines the process from observation to intervention. This should include guidelines for immediate feedback, coaching sessions, and ongoing support.
  5. Identify Key Behaviors for Coaching: Determine which behaviors are critical to address through coaching. These might include unsafe practices, failure to use personal protective equipment (PPE), or lapses in following established safety procedures.
  6. Promote Positive Reinforcement: Emphasize positive reinforcement during coaching sessions. Acknowledge safe behaviors and highlight improvements. This approach encourages employees to continue exhibiting safe practices.
  7. Implement Real-Time Feedback: Integrate real-time feedback into the coaching process. If an observer identifies an at-risk behavior, coaches should provide immediate, constructive feedback to the employee involved. This helps address issues promptly.
  8. Encourage Two-Way Communication: Foster open communication between coaches and employees. Encourage employees to share their perspectives, concerns, and suggestions for improving safety. A collaborative approach enhances the effectiveness of coaching.
  9. Utilize Technology for Efficiency: Leverage technology, such as mobile apps or digital platforms, to streamline the coaching process. This can include recording observations, tracking progress, and providing resources for self-directed learning.
  10. Establish Clear Reporting Mechanisms: Implement a reporting system for coaches to document their interactions and observations. This data can be valuable for assessing the impact of coaching on behavior change and overall safety performance.
  11. Schedule Regular Coaching Sessions: Set up regular coaching sessions to review progress, discuss challenges, and reinforce positive behaviors. Consistency is key to embedding behavioral changes into the organizational culture.
  12. Measure and Evaluate Coaching Effectiveness: Define key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of behavior-based coaching. This could include a reduction in at-risk behaviors, improved safety metrics, and increased employee engagement in safety initiatives.
  13. Provide Ongoing Training and Development: Continuously train and develop coaches to ensure they stay informed about best practices and maintain their coaching skills. This ongoing investment contributes to the sustainability of the behavior-based coaching program.
  14. Celebrate Success and Continuous Improvement: Celebrate successes and milestones achieved through behavior-based coaching. Additionally, use feedback and data to identify areas for continuous improvement, adjusting the coaching program as needed.

By integrating behavior-based coaching into your BBS program with a strategic and employee-centric approach, you can create a safety culture that prioritizes continuous improvement, individual accountability, and a collective commitment to a safer workplace.

Check Out: How Effective Leaders Use Positive Reinforcement For the Greatest Effect

Tailoring BBS Programs to Industry-Specific Needs:

 Customizing Behavioral Checklists:

    • Tailor observation checklists to address industry-specific risks and behaviors.
    • Collaborate with industry experts to identify unique challenges and solutions.

One size doesn’t fit all, and that’s especially true when it comes to workplace safety. While Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs offer an invaluable toolkit for preventing accidents and building a culture of safety, simply plopping a generic program into any industry won’t unlock its full potential. That’s where industry-specific tailoring comes in, transforming BBS from a one-note melody into a symphony of safety tailored to the unique risks and rhythms of each workplace.

Gearing Up for the Grind: BBS in Manufacturing:

Imagine the whirring machinery, the sparks flying – the inherent risks of manufacturing demand a BBS program that speaks its language. Focus on:

  • Task-specific observations: Train supervisors to identify and address unsafe behaviors specific to each task, from machine operation to material handling.

  • Near-miss reporting: Encourage workers to report close calls as learning opportunities, not just accidents waiting to happen.

  • Safety champions: Empower experienced workers to mentor and advocate for safe practices among their peers.


The Key to BBS Customization:

Remember, tailoring is an ongoing process. Regularly analyze incident data, conduct employee surveys, and engage in open communication to identify areas for improvement and ensure your BBS program stays relevant and effective.

By embracing industry-specific needs, BBS programs shed their generic skin and transform into powerful tools for fostering safety in every corner of the working world. So, ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and get ready to craft a safety symphony that resonates with the unique rhythm of your industry. The reward? A healthier, happier, and ultimately more productive workplace for everyone.

Measuring the Impact: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

Establishing Relevant KPIs:

    • Define key metrics aligned with the goals of the BBS program.
    • Metrics may include incident reduction rates, observation completion rates, and positive behavior reinforcement rates.

Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs are powerful tools for cultivating a safer and more productive workplace. But measuring their success requires more than just counting bandages. To truly understand the impact of your BBS initiatives, you need to track the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Here are some essential KPIs to consider for your behavior based safety program:

Engagement & Participation:

  • Observation Rate: How often are safe and unsafe behaviors observed? This measures the program’s reach and employee engagement.
  • Feedback Rate: Do employees feel comfortable reporting near misses and safety concerns? This indicates trust and a willingness to participate actively.
  • Training Attendance: Are employees attending safety training sessions and actively learning about safe practices? This reflects their commitment to safety.

Behavior Change & Culture:

  • Positive Behavior Frequency: How often are safe behaviors observed compared to unsafe ones? This shows a shift towards a culture of safety.
  • Incident Rate Reduction: Are accidents and injuries decreasing over time? This is the ultimate measure of the program’s effectiveness in preventing harm.
  • Safety Climate Surveys: Do employees feel safe and supported in their work environment? This gauges the overall safety culture and identifies areas for improvement.

Leading Indicators for Proactive Safety:

  • Hazard Identification Rate: Are employees actively identifying and reporting potential hazards before they lead to incidents? This shows proactiveness and risk awareness.
  • Near Miss Reporting: How many near misses are reported? This indicates employees are paying attention to potential safety issues and taking preventative measures.
  • Safety Stop Rate: Do employees feel empowered to stop unsafe work practices and address safety concerns? This reflects a culture of ownership and responsibility.


  • KPIs are not one-size-fits-all: Choose metrics that align with your program’s goals and your industry’s specific risks.
  • Track trends over time: Don’t just focus on individual data points. Look for patterns and trends to identify areas for improvement and celebrate successes.
  • Regularly evaluate and adapt: No program is perfect. Use your KPIs to identify areas for improvement and refine your BBS initiatives to achieve optimal results.

By tracking the right KPIs and taking action based on the data, you can ensure your BBS program is not just a box-ticking exercise, but a powerful driver of real change in your workplace. Remember, measuring what matters is the key to unlocking the true potential of BBS and creating a safer, healthier, and more productive environment for everyone.

Check Out: How to Set Goals for Safety Performance

Regular Audits and Assessments:

Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs thrive on continuous improvement. Just like a well-oiled machine needs tune-ups, your BBS program requires regular check-ins to ensure it’s running smoothly and effectively. Enter the stage: audits and assessments, your trusty spotlights illuminating areas for refinement and maximizing the program’s impact.

Why Audit and Assess?

Regular audits and assessments aren’t just bureaucratic exercises; they’re vital tools for:

  • Gauging Program Effectiveness: Are your BBS initiatives actually changing behaviors and reducing risks? Audits provide evidence-based insights to validate or disprove your assumptions.
  • Identifying Areas for Improvement: No program is perfect. Assessments help you pinpoint weaknesses, uncover gaps in knowledge or implementation, and prioritize areas for improvement.
  • Demonstrating Commitment: Regular evaluations showcase your dedication to safety, fostering trust and buy-in among employees and stakeholders.

What to Audit and Assess?

Your audit and assessment toolkit can be customized to your specific program and organizational needs, but some key areas include:

  • Program Design and Implementation: Are your BBS components clearly defined, well-communicated, and effectively implemented across all levels of the organization?
  • Observation and Feedback Processes: Are observations conducted frequently and effectively? Does feedback reach employees promptly and lead to positive behavior change?
  • Employee Engagement and Participation: Are employees actively involved in the program? Do they feel comfortable reporting issues and participating in safety initiatives?
  • Data Analysis and Utilization: Are you collecting and analyzing relevant data to track progress and inform program adjustments? Are insights translating into actionable changes?
Check Out: How to Develop an Internal Safety Audit Schedule

Shining the Light: Conducting the Audit

Audits and assessments come in various flavors, from internal self-evaluations to external expert-led reviews. Choose the approach that best aligns with your needs and resources. Regardless of the method, remember these key principles:

  • Objectivity and Transparency: Conduct audits with an unbiased eye and openly share the findings with stakeholders.
  • Collaboration and Feedback: Involve employees at all levels in the process. Their insights are invaluable for understanding challenges and identifying solutions.
  • Actionable Outcomes: Don’t just point out the problems; translate findings into concrete action plans for improvement.

Remember: Audits and assessments are not punitive exercises; they’re opportunities to learn, grow, and strengthen your BBS program. By embracing regular evaluations and acting on their insights, you can continuously fine-tune your approach, build a robust safety culture, and create a safer, more productive workplace for everyone. So, grab your flashlight, shine a light on your BBS program, and pave the way for a brighter, safer future.

Addressing Challenges and Overcoming Resistance:

Change Management Strategies:

    • Anticipate and address resistance to change through effective change management strategies.
    • Communicate the benefits of BBS and address concerns transparently.
Check Out:  Making Behavior Change Stick Through Effective Change Leadership

Leadership Buy-In:

    • Secure leadership buy-in by showcasing the positive impact of BBS on safety outcomes.
    • Encourage leadership to actively participate in the program to set an example.

Remember, climbing the safety summit isn’t a single sprint, it’s a continuous journey. By incorporating these strategies into your behavior based safety program, you’ll build a robust framework that fosters a culture of shared responsibility, cultivates positive behaviors, and empowers everyone to play an active role in creating a safer, healthier workplace for all. Take the first step today, and watch your safety culture reach new heights!

Check-out my slideshow about implementing a behavior based safety program

BEHAVIOR based safety Kevin Ian Columbus Ohio Safety Consultant

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