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Taking a Behavioural Change Approach to Health and Safety

Posted by Ian Bolton – Sales Manager

All organisations must provide workplace health and safety training, as part of their statutory duty to their employees. However, the issue with this is that training alone cannot guarantee long-term changes in the behaviour of employees. The solution to this? Implementing a behavioural change programme. 

There are a number of reasons why taking a behavioural change approach is required in the workplace, and it offers plenty of benefits for those organisations who choose to invest in it. The most commonly cited reason for implementing such a programme is that it can transform the culture itself in a workplace, promoting one where individuals feel empowered to take control of their learning and development. This approach also helps to cut down on the significant number of workplace accidents that are reportedly caused by inappropriate behaviour and can be used to support the efforts of other training that you have invested in.

What is Behavioural Safety?

Behavioural safety might sound like a buzzword but it is an approach that’s based on academic theories of behavioural change. These theories seek to understand why people behave how they do and propose processes by which behaviours can be changed to achieve the desired outcome. Behavioural safety takes these theories and applies them to the issue of workplace health and safety. It is a bottom-up approach that is implemented using top-down support from trained safety leaders, who become designated? safety coaches within the organisation. 

The Six-Step Approach to Behavioural Safety 

The 2002 Health and Safety Executive research reports a practical six-step approach to behavioural safety can be used to implement a behavioural safety programme in the workplace. These steps cover the three key principles of a behavioural approach: goal setting, reinforcement, and feedback.

Step 1: Start by clearly establishing the desired outcome of the programme in the context of the specific health and safety topic in question.

Step 2: Identify the critical behaviours that need to be improved in relation to that area of health and safety. 

Step 3: Ensure that all of the individuals identified as requiring the training can perform the new behaviour.

Step 4: Carry out an ABC behavioural analysis of both the current and the desired behaviour.

Step 5: Based on the results of the ABC analysis, alter the consequences once individuals start displaying the desired behaviour through the use of positive reinforcement.

Step 6: Evaluate the impact of the behavioural changes implemented.                    

Is a Behavioural Programme Right for Your Organisation?

We cannot undersell the benefits of implementing a behaviour safety programme in the workplace, but organisations must still assess if this is the best course of action for them. In order to do so, there are several different questions that the management team must consider. The answers to this will help managers decide if a behavioural programme is the right course of action for improving health and safety in their workplace. 

  • Does the current behaviour of employees in your organisation contribute to a significant number of incidents?
  • Will the management team be able to, and feel comfortable, supporting employees as they become more involved with health and safety?  
  • Does your organisation have the infrastructure and resources in place to support the programme? 
  • Will employees have a positive attitude towards the programme and be committed to long-term change, rather than seeing it as a quick fix? 



Ian Bolton – Sales Manager

Ian is our UK Corporate Sales Manager and has been looking after new business at Praxis42 since October 2016. He has a background in Compliance and Training having previously worked for the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.

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