Call Us +61 8 6272 3900

Does Behaviour Based Safety Really Work?

Article prepared: 6 June 2013

At PSB Solutions, evidence-based practice is our creed. We provide our clients with strategies that are scientifically proven to deliver positive outcomes in safety performance.  Behaviour Based Safety (BBS) is one such strategy. Although BBS has advocates and critics, its positive influence on safety performance is significant. This is highlighted through a number of studies that have examined the effectiveness of BBS programs and shown that they lead to significant safety performance improvements(1). One study in particular examined three petroleum refinery sites that had implemented a BBS program over a 20 year period(2). At the end of the study the following improvements were observed across the three refinery sites: 

  • an 81% decrease in recordable incidents
  • a 79% decrease in lost-time incidents
  • a 97% savings in annual workers compensation costs over an eight-year period.

These statistics considered, a BBS program will only succeed if the organisation is committed and the culture is ready. BBS is most likely to succeed when leadership is committed, personnel are engaged with the program’s objectives and there are effective feedback processes.

Here are key best-practice guidelines that any well designed BBS program should comprise to drive positive outcomes in safety:

  1. An initial safety climate assessment to gauge cultural readiness for the implementation of a BBS program. If the culture is not ready for a BBS program, as indicated by mistrust of management and poor team functioning, the BBS program will fail.
  2. Commitment and involvement of the leadership team in the program. If the leadership team is not committed to providing the resources (in terms of time to conduct observations and training to support personnel in their observation skills) the BBS program will suffer.
  3. Ongoing training that upskill personnel in their observation and feedback skills, which further serves to create buy-in to the program.  
  4. The development of a comprehensive behaviour checklist that defines key safe behaviours linked to the prevention of incidents and injuries.
  5. The provision of comprehensive and ongoing safety observation training.
  6. Observations conducted on a regular basis.
  7. Analysis of BBS observation data that highlights key areas for improvement and strength.
  8. Personnel receiving feedback directly after an observation and also at a group level where trends are highlighted and discussed.
  9. Team acknowledgement of participation and engagement in the BBS program.
  10. Nomination of a steering committee group/champions of the BBS program that internally supports observations, trending, analysis and feedback.
If you have any questions, or think your organisation can benefit from a BBS Program, contact PSB Solutions, the BBS specialists.


(1) Krause, T. R., Seymour, K. J., & Sloat, K.C.M. (1999). Long-term evaluation of a behaviour based method for improving safety performance: A meta-analysis of 73 interrupted time-series replications. Safety Science, 32, 1-18.
(2) Myers, W. V., McSween, T. E., Medina, R. E., Rost, K., & Alvero, A. M. (2010). The implementation and maintenance of a behavioural safety process in a petroleum refinery. Journal of Organisational Behaviour. 4, 285-307.