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What Is Behavioral Safety? (Workplace Examples and Strategies)

Updated: Jul 26, 2020

There are many different interpretations of behavioral safety, and hopefully what I outline here gives you a basic understanding of the principles that we believe, are linked to behavioral safety. We've referenced information within here from other sources on the website, and other people that we may class as gurus in this field.

What does behavioral safety focus on?

  1. At-risk behaviours that could lead to an injury

  2. Safe behaviours that could contribute to injury prevention

  3. Influencing a culture change through attitudes and perceptions

  4. Driving leading indicators rather than lagging indicators

Why is behavioural safety important?

It's reported that up to 90% of workplace accidents/incidents are down to unsafe behaviours, or human error. If we focus our attention on the unsafe acts, then we can drive change before it's too late.

Using this methodology, we can address the unsafe acts, monitor and measure them, and take appropriate action where needed. The data gathered associated to unsafe acts and near misses, combined with the organisational culture of stopping jobs and interrupting people, is something that will drive change within your organisation.

Categories of unsafe behaviour

When we look at the categories of one safe behaviour, we see this as human failures, broken into errors and violations.

Within errors, we can then break this into four additional categories,

  1. Slips in judgment

  2. Lapses of memory

  3. Rule-based mistakes

  4. Knowledge-based mistakes

Within violations, the three additional areas could be:

  1. Routine violations

  2. Situational violations

  3. Exceptional violations

Below are everyday examples of unsafe behaviors:

Below are worksite examples of unsafe behaviors:

Unintentional Errors

We all make unintentional errors from time to time. It's important when you see another person doing this, that you bring it to their attention right away. This may prevent them from harming themselves or others in the future.

Habitual Errors

Habitual errors are simply something that becomes a habit, because you have always done it that way. To break out of this, make sure you understand the importance of doing it correctly, and get some training on how to do things if required.

Often it is the individual that holds our imperfect systems together - The fact that things are working, and people have not been hurt, is down to your employees efforts and luck.

Human Error

Human error is not a cause of failure - it is the effect or the symptom of a deeper-rooted issue.

Human error is not the conclusion of an investigation into an incident or a near miss, its often the starting point. Think about the influencing factors that cause the human to undertake that error.

We're all fallible, so it's important to ask yourself:

  • What was he thinking when he did that?

  • Why didn't she see us?

  • She should have known about this... why didn't she?

  • That was a strange decision for him to make... where's his decision making coming from?

Violations to behavioral safety

Violations are conscious decisions made by individuals - whether this is down to laziness, carelessness or lack of consequences - they need to be stopped.

The methods of how they should be reported need to be understood by the whole organisation:

  1. Do not walk past

  2. Do not ignore

  3. Involve others within the organisation

Decisions around how to deal with employees making intentional errors may need to be dealt with by the human resources department, or possibly top management.


You can check out other health and safety content here.

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