Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Behavoural safety - IOSH branch presentation

Presentation by Nick Wharton of JMOC at the IOSH Manchester Branch 13 February 2007

Nick gave a very good presentation covering the basics of behavioural safety. He is a good and entertaining presenter, and clearly very experienced. I think that, although he is obviously quite evangelical about behavioural safety, he was also very honest that it is impossible to create a direct link between introducing a behavioural programme and improving safety performance. This is quite a contrast to some presentations I have seen where it is claimed behaviour modification is The answer to safety.

I am fairly ambivalent to behavioural safety. I consider it to be a useful tool in the safety toolbox but have concerns that companies often put all their effort and resources into it, at the expense of other approaches. In fact some of Nick's figures showed how much continued effort is required. It is not just a case of keeping up a level of effort, but it seems you need to keep increasing effort otherwise safety performance starts to drop. I wonder how sustainable this can be.

Nick suggested that behaviour modification is applicable to process safety as well as personal safety. I am far from convinced about this. However, Nick did say that behavioural safety should not be used until good systems are in place. Perhaps it is the case that the process safety systems are not yet well enough developed, and so there is more to do before we can try behavioural safety. I guess my question is whether systems will every be good enough, and I feel effort spent on systems may always be more beneficial than that spent on behaviours.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...


Agree entirely that the behavioural approach is just part of the picture. I personally like to think most of the practices are just part of sound safety management. When I worked at DuPont not many people knew what 'behavioural safety' was. It was just the way they 'did safety'.

I have found that behaviour is just the symptom of other factors; these are both workplace and external influences and are based on past experiences.

I firmly believe that we now need an integrated approach to business risk management and not a separation of 'behavioural' and 'system' safety.