Why BBS works and why it doesn't?
While BBS is a well researched, and long established process, first emerging iat the start of the 1980s, applying the work of behavioral psychologists such as Beth Sulzer-Azaroff, Judy Komaki, and Bill Hopkins. They developed an understanding of the usefulness of behavioural observations and analysis to identify and prevent unsafe behaviours, in the workplace. This early research and field successes led to the development of the systems and practices that we now consider to be the process of behaviour based safety. The use of BBS has been empiracally proven to overcome one of the challenges of any safety programme, maintenance and longevity. Many organisations are familiar with a safety bump after the introduction of a new programme and this gradually tailing off over a number of years. BBS has proven itself effective at avoiding this reduction, using multi-organisational studies conducted over 5 to 15 years following the initial implementation, the researchers observed maintenance and continual improvement (Hagge et al, 2017, Krause and Sloat, 1999, etc.) BBS has demonstrated its effectiveness above common processes such as safety committees and engineering controls (good for single hazards) because it is able to address a range of issues across a project or facility. There are a number of large organisations that provide BBS as a service, both digitially and as consultancies and they have worked with researchers to empirically demonstrate the effectiveness of behaviour-based safety when it is done correctly.
Properly trained constituted and resourced BBS programmes depend on developing the process for the needs of the organisation, through a review and gap analysis, working closely with the organisational stakeholders. The development of the observational phase is where real successes can be found as long as it is appropriate to the needs and capabilities of the organisation.
Some projects benefit from weekly feedback, while others do better with fortnightly but detailed feedback, this is a function of the number of observers ( a few well-trained as opposed to a large number of slightly trained).
There are a number of unexpected outcomes from training observers that also benefit the organisations, higher participation levels positively influenced the observer's own work practices and safety adherence. There is a large amount of evidence suggesting that 30% of the workers being trained and participating initially is the best way to create safety improvements. This provides an opportunity to cycle different individuals through the training and participation process bi-annually and to replace existing observers before they become overburdened with the requirements of the role.
BBS Programmes that aren't specific or don't focus on the training, observation, and feedback cycle, or that don't action the information, will fail. If the organisation focuses on the behaviour of the employees rather than on understanding why they made that choice or why that choice was forced on them will fail. If senior management don't take responsibility for making the necessary changes identified by the feedback, the BBS programme will fail.
Success comes from choosing the correct process, resourcing it and then ensuring that the feedback is actioned.