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When and How to Use Behavior-Based Safety with Contractors

by Terry McSween, Ph.D.

A common issue in designing a behavior-based safety process for many organizations is what to do about their contractors. Many companies, especially those in construction, marine fabrication, and drilling rely heavily on contract employees. The best approach to this issue is specific to the needs of the organization and not something that is one size fits all. One of the primary factors that determines the approach is the extent to which the organization depends on contract employees and the nature of their work. The following table outlines the most common options and some of the considerations appropriate for most organizations.

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Observation and Team-Management Processes

Terry E. McSween, Ph.D.

Today’s behavioral safety systems have two distinct elements: a behavioral observation process and a team-based management process. Both of these elements are critical. The observation process is an educational process that encourages employees to work more safely on the job. The team-based management process ensures the maintenance of the observation process and ensures that the process is adaptive to a changing workplace.

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Behavior-Based Safety Can Improve Safety Programs

Grainne A. Matthews, Ph.D. and Terry McSween, Ph.D.

Our problem in achieving further improvements in safety stems from our success. Most industries have good safety records as a result of decades of improvements in working conditions, regulations, and practices. Strictly based on chance, the average employee can work their entire life without experiencing a serious injury. This high level of safety creates a sense of complacency among both employees and management. Employees can often shortcut safety procedures and not get hurt. Management can attend to productivity and other issues while paying little attention to employees’ safe work habits. The probability of injury is often too low to maintain compliance with safety procedures, especially those that make the job more uncomfortable or less convenient.

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Self-Observations in Behavior-Based Safety

by Terry E McSween

Many of today’s organizations have employees who work independently, either alone or in small crews. Examples of such positions include nurses involved with home health care or hospice, utility linemen, utility meter readers, gas company employees working pipeline, delivery drivers, and many others. In such organizations, a self-observation process is often a better fit and easier to sustain than peer observations.

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