Make Your Workplace Safer With Psychology of Safety

Make Your Workplace Safer With the Psychology of Safety

While psychology of safety may sound like a college course, it actually represents an innovative way for organizations to reduce safety incidents. Already, companies spend mounds of effort and money attempting to minimize workplace accidents by installing safety management systems and addressing hardware issues.

Over several years, these efforts have managed to deliver a significant reduction in accident rates. While major accident rates may have subsided, minor accident rates appear to be stubbornly resistant to these efforts. Most accidents can be directly linked to poor safety attitudes or carelessness for safety, which indicate ingrained unsafe behaviors.

The psychology of safety looks to address this issue by focusing on the unsafe behaviors and correcting those actions through highly effective management techniques. These principles are proven to result in a positive change in safety attitudes and safety performance. Continue reading to learn more about the psychology of safety and how it can be used to reduce injuries.

Why Focus on Unsafe Behavior?

Even though unsafe behavior is difficult to control, it's estimated anywhere from 80% to 95% of all accidents are a direct result of unsafe behaviors. In most instances, these negative behaviors interact with other resident hazards naturally inherent in the work environment.

Many of these hazards, which can be identified through an effective hazard and risk analysis, are inadvertently introduced through the implementation of strategic plans. These hazards may be relatively harmless and lay dormant the majority of the time; but when they're combined with unsafe behavior, it produces an accident.

Considering it's exponentially harder to address these resident hazards, focusing the attention on the behavior of the workers is an easier option. Simply put, the employee's actions are within their control, but the resident hazards are not.

Psychology of safety and behavioral safety programs look to focus on and identify a particular set of dangerous behaviors workers are more likely to engage in. Once these hazards are identified, employees will have access to a safe mechanism where they can control their own safety behavior as well as that of their colleagues.

Psychology of Safety Leads to Better Indexing

Psychology of behavioral safety programs provide superior indexing of ongoing safety performance in comparison to only accident tracking for two different reasons:

1. Accidents are typically the result of a causal sequence triggered by unsafe behavior(s)

2. Unsafe behaviors can be effectively measured daily in a meaningful way.

Accident rates are typically used as the main outcome measure of safety performance. This is because accidents tend to signal a flaw or problem within the company's safety management system. Due to the way they're calculated, accident rates may also provide a raw and misleading benchmark that can be compared across industries.

However, this commonly results in the resources and attention of management to only focus on safety in times of increasing accident rates. Once the immediate problems look as if they are resolved, resources and the attention of management is diverted to other more pressing organizational matters.

Focusing solely on accident rates as a measure of safety performance tends to be highly reactive. Conversely, the regular focus on the actual safety behavior is much more proactive. It allows other factors in the accident chain to be dealt with and managed before an incident occurs.

By making "safety behavior" a unit of measurement, a collaborative, problem-solving approach is used. Employees and management work to identify critical sets of unsafe and safe behaviors. These inventories build the foundation for workers to systematically observe and monitor their coworker's ongoing safety behavior in an enabling atmosphere on a daily basis.

Why Do Workers Practice Unsafe Behavior?

In most instances, employees practice unsafe behavior out of complacency or because they've never been hurt while performing their job in unsafe ways. However, the potential for an accident is never far away.

According to Heinrich's Safety Triangle, for every 330 unsafe acts, 29 of those acts will result in minor injuries, while one will result in lost time or a major accident. Consequently, over long periods of time, any consistent lack of injuries incurred by those who are practicing unsafe behaviors will reinforce unsafe behaviors, which will eventually lead to a serious injury.

Unless your organization utilizes the psychology of safety to understand unsafe behavior, it's as if you are simply waiting for a catastrophic accident to happen.

What Is Behavior Based Safety?

Behavior-based safety is an application of the psychology of safety principles to promote safer behavior in the workplace through bolstered employee involvement. This practice involves recognizing the behaviors or practices critical to minimizing the risk of injury.

Afterwards, these unsafe behaviors and practices are compiled in a checklist that can be used by employees to gather data on unsafe and safe practices throughout the organization. Finally, teams of employees should analyze the data collected through the observations to develop plans of action to promote continuous safety improvement.

Contact Premier Safety Partners for a Safety Consultation

With decades of experience, the health and safety professionals at Premier Safety Partners are experts in the psychology of safety. Instead of waiting for an accident to happen, we will help you understand unsafe behaviors exclusive to your industry and firm. Most importantly, we will guide you in developing an effective solution for correcting unsafe employee behavior.

Contact Premier Safety Partners today for a free on-site consultation.​

About the Author

Scott Ray is an industry leader in Health and Safety. Recognized for his business acumen and innovative approach, Scott has a track record in successfully implementing H&S systems that result in fostering a culture of operational excellence. His 25 year Health and Safety career includes both technical and leadership experience within diverse industries including energy/utilities, manufacturing, higher education, construction, defense and aerospace.