Behaviour-based approaches to safety

Many traditional approaches to health and safety management are available to
organisations wanting to improve their safety performance. Eventually, however,
a plateau in accident reduction is reached beyond which it can be difficult to

One way of addressing this difficulty is to adopt a Behavioural-Based Safety
Approach, a practice which examines the psychology of why people comply with
rules or why they don’t. BBSA takes into account the individual, the
environment and the individual’s behaviour in the workplace to get to the root
of the problem. It need not be reserved just for safety issues though. A
behavioural approach gives the ownership of health and safety to the people at
risk, rather than allowing them to be directed by those not at risk. It can be
as relevant to locating the cause of occupational stress among a group of
employees, as discovering why certain accidents are occurring on a production

A well-motivated and committed workforce that actively participates in the
management of its own health and safety issues can bring considerable benefits
and BBSA can break down many of the traditional employee/manager barriers and
foster team spirit. Without full management commitment though there could be
problems which reduce the effectiveness of the approach. Organisations should
be aware that BBSA can amplify bad situations as well as highlight good ones.

IOSH has produced a "technical info sheet" on BBSA and while the
Institution believes the concept can work very well, it is not a stand-alone
approach and should be used in harmony with other safety management systems.

The IOSH info sheets provide basic facts for an individual to interpret and
implement. They include references, contacts for further information and are
free to members and non-members. They can be downloaded at:

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