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Behavioral Safety

February 3, 2013

Behaviors are primal instincts that, in certain situations, are the only tool human beings have left to use for survival.  These behaviors are what we rely on when we are in a situation or an environment where other safety measures that have been put in place fail. The old saying “You are the one responsible for your own safety” sums up this reality.  An article entitled “Understanding the Role of Behaviors in Safety” reviews how certain behaviors, when it comes to safety, are mandatory and some are discretionary.

Injury Prevention Behaviors:

1.)    Mandatory: Rules and policies in place to prevent injury within the workplace must be followed.  When these mandatory behaviors are pushed to the side disciplinary procedures generally follow.  Behaviors like using PPE and how to use dangerous equipment must be controlled by management cannot be ignored by employees.

2.)    Discretionary: I would almost call these behaviors “using common sense.”   Things like watching where you are walk or keeping your arms and legs out of the path of something that is moving should be followed but may not necessarily be made into a rule.

Desirable Safety Culture Behaviors:

1.)    Mandatory: When the characteristics and capabilities of a desired safety culture are known, the individuals who really want to achieve the desired result will comply with the mandatory behaviors.   Behaviors such as reporting injuries, safety concern recognition and attending safety meetings and training are all safety rules that should be followed throughout the culture.

2.)    Discretionary:  Individuals that follow discretionary behaviors on top of the mandatory behaviors go above and beyond the bottom line in order to make their safety culture succeeds.  Behaviors such as mentoring new employees, volunteering and seeking out improvement opportunities add to the success of a safety culture.

Safety managers need to be aware of the distinction between mandatory and discretionary behaviors and need to know how to use them both in their organization.  These behaviors may change and evolve as the safety culture and employees change.  Being flexible and willing to work with employees is important.  Using high quality safety products is also important.  Safety products such as non slip flooring keep employees on their feet and remind them how important safety really is.

Galloway, Shawn.  “Understanding the Roles of Behavior in Safety.” www.ohsonline.com  December 1, 2012. January 31, 2013.

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