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Creating Safer Workplaces
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How Can We Create Safer Workplaces?

  • Publish Date: Posted 9 months ago
  • Author:by Nick Farkas

Behavioural Based Safety (BBS) or Human and Organisational Performance (HOP)

Over the last few years, discussions have taken place about the merits of different approaches to workplace safety, and whether Behavioural Based Safety (BBS)or Human and Organisational Performance (HOP) is better for keeping workforces safe.

BBS (Behavioural Based Safety) is founded on the science of behaviour: a scientific field of study called Behaviour Analysis. It seeks to understand how all the organisational systems (environment, people, processes) have the potential to influence safe, and at-risk behaviour. Therefore, by understanding the ‘systems’ and how they influence behaviour, you can then make changes to them in order to make it easier for workers to make ‘safer choices’.

HOP, (Human or Organisational Performance), which was founded on the work of Sidney Dekker and James Reason, focuses on the human element of safety. It starts with the assumption (and a philosophical shift) that human error is inevitable and is caused by problems with the organisational systems. Therefore, by fixing the ‘systems’, you can reduce the likelihood of human error and reduce workplace incidents.

Director of Project Services for Shirley Parsons, Nick Farkas, uses his expert knowledge and experience within the industry to advise that, rather than focusing on whether BBS or HOP is best, the focus should be on how they can complement each other.

Organisational Systems.

Despite coming at it from a different angle, both BBS and HOP seek to understand the ‘organisational system’; by association, they are complimentary to one another rather than antagonistic and not mutually exclusive.

One obvious commonality between a BBS and HOP approach is their focus on people – the human element – and people at all levels of an organisation. It is now accepted that to have an effective safety workplace system (irrespective of which approach you adopt) there is a need to focus on top management behaviour as well as worker behaviour. Management creates and maintains the systems within which people work, so management behaviour directly influences worker behaviours who on a day-to-day basis interact with the systems.


Human Performance.

The similarities between BBS and HOP don’t just relate to organisational systems, but both approaches espouse and demonstrate a positive correlation between behaviour and human performance.

Sustaining safety improvements over time within an organisation requires changing behaviour at all levels, and thus by inference influencing human performance. The behaviours that need to change directly relate to standard safety management system essential elements; hazard identification/remediation; incentive systems that encourage rather than discourage; easy to use near-miss reporting systems; and behaviours related to following rules and processes/procedures.

Research has shown that organisations with successful safety programmes conduct four key activities well:

·      They predict the next (potential) failure.

·      They reduce the operational complexity of systems.

·      They respond with urgency to predictive data.

·      They respond with urgency to actual events using teams to investigate.

By utilising both a BBS and HOP approach to workplace safety all these four elements of a successful safety programme will be addressed. So, if we all have the same goal of ‘creating safer workplaces for people’ by combining BBS and HOP approaches you will give yourself the greatest chance of success.

‘There is no quick fix to all our complex safety problems but, through understanding human behaviour and therefore human performance, we can create a framework that enables us to improve organisational systems to reduce human errors and the likelihood of workplace incidents. All of this adds up to a productive, safe workplace performance plan.’


Creating the best safety approach for you

Nick leads our team partnering with our clients to develop sustainable strategies and solutions to meet their needs.

To discuss your organisation's best approach to safety systems, please give Nick a few details on the form below: