Last week, I looked at some of the reasons behavior based safety has been slow to catch on in the construction industry. I don't want to give the impression that behavior based safety can't work in construction. On the contrary, it can and it has.
For example, I was involved in a construction project at a power plant with more than 2,000 workers that went 18 months without a serious (lost-time) injury after adopting a behavior based safety program. Another construction company that did a three-year job for a petrochemical plant actually had a lower injury rate during the project than the host plant.
Let's look at how behavior based safety can work in the construction context.
Last time I talked about how the transient nature of the workforce impedes success at construction projects. Workers tend not to be on the job long enough to get the full extent of behavior based training.
One of the things I've seen construction companies do to overcome this problem is to concentrate behavior based training on managers, superintendents, general foremen and foremen. This strategy minimizes costs and makes maximum use of the fact that many foremen devote most of their time providing training to the members of the workforce they oversee. When all levels of management make observations, give positive feedback and encourage people to work safely, behavior based safety activities go a long way. Although not as effective as peer-to-peer feedback in real time, the foremen strategy can be very effective at reducing injuries.
One of the preconditions of this strategy is that the company hold training sessions explaining to all workers the objectives and principles of behavior based safety. It's especially important for workers to understand that behavior based safety is not designed to punish them. You won't gain buy-in if the program is regarded as punitive in nature.
Advanced Awareness Training
Some companies have taken this approach a step further by incorporating advanced safety awareness concepts and techniques in their training sessions. Advanced awareness training looks at all of the ingredients that cause accidental injury:
1. The hazard;
2. The occurrence of an unexpected event; and
3. The contact between the hazard and the worker.
Most safety programs focus on the first element, the hazard, and don't pay enough attention to the second element, the occurrence of the unexpected event. An unexpected event might involve the unexpected act (or omission) of the victim, a co-worker or a piece of equipment or machinery, e.g., the unexpected energization of a machine.
Surprisingly, 90 percent of all injuries are the result of unexpected acts or omissions by the victims themselves. Errors include:
1. Eyes not on the task;
2. Mind not on the task;
3. Moving into or being in the line of fire; or
4. Loss of balance, traction or grip.
Human factors such as emotions and conditions contribute to errors. There are four states that cause 90 percent of the four errors listed above, including:
3. Fatigue; and
Mistakes can't be completely eliminated. After all, we are only human. But mistakes can be reduced. Next week, in Part 3 of this story, I'll set out a strategy for error reduction that works in the construction context.
THE CONTROVERSY OVER BEHAVIOR BASED SAFETY
By Glenn Demby
As I'm sure most of you are aware, behavior based safety is highly controversial. Here's a quick look at what the controversy is about.
At the risk of oversimplification, practitioners of behavior based safety see human behavior as the key to safety. Human behavior is the main cause of accidents, they believe. The way to prevent accidents then is to teach people to act more safely. Behavior based training is designed to instill safe habits and attitudes that are applied not only in the workplace but universalized to the non-work environment. In essence, people are remade as safer beings.
Detractors criticize behavior based safety for blaming accidents on the workers and, by implication, absolving management of responsibility. They feel that behaviorism trivializes the other factors contributing to accidents such as industrial equipment, processes and poor working conditions. Not surprisingly, some of the most vocal of these critics come from organized labor.
So who's right? This is impossible to answer. But we'd like to know what you, the members of SafetyXChange, think. Send us your comments, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll print them to follow up the Larry Wilson series. Let us know if you want us to use your name/company name.
STATISTIC OF THE WEEK
The Growth of Female Enterprise
Between 1992 and 2004, the number of privately-held firms owned by women (without employees) in the U.S. grew 18 percent. By comparison, the rate of growth of all non-employee firms over the same period was 9 percent. Here are some more statistics:
5.4 Million: The number of women-owned firms without employees in the U.S. in 2004
$167 Billion: Total sales generated by these firms in 2004
Here's a breakdown of the industries these firms are in:
1. Services Sector: 53 percent
2. Retail Trade: 13 percent
3. Finance, Insurance and Real Estate: 9 percent
4. Construction: 2 percent
5. Transportation, Communication and Public Utilities: 2 percent
Top 10 states with the fastest growth in sales by women-owned firms:
5. North Carolina
9. South Dakota
Source: Center of Women's Business Research, www.womensbusinessresearch.org.