Safety Moment – Another Look at Behavioral Safety


Psychologists often make behavioral safety too complicated. A version provided by Dr. Bill Robb of Safety Improvers helps explain it more simply.

Behavioral safety gets results because it taps into people’s deep intuitive understanding of why we do what we do. Behavioral safety goes beyond the words “No job is so important that you can’t take the time to do it safety”, “Everyone has the right and duty to stop an unsafe act”, and so on. However, psychologists often make behavioral safety too complicated, so here’s a version suggested by Bill Robb, PhD, DEd, you can use to explain it to your people.

1. People always do things for a reason.

2. Most of the time we act on autopilot – we are not aware of the reasons.

3. Almost always people will do what they THINK is good for them.

4. Unfortunately, most of the time our thinking about what is good for us is flawed. Most of the time, we act not on the facts but what we BELIEVE or perceive. Our beliefs and perceptions come from our conditioning at home, school, from friends. As adults we are subtly conditioned at work.

5. Behavioral workshops lead people to see for themselves, the reasons driving them and how a “good reason” (helping a colleague) may in fact be a “bad reason”. If you do this often enough people begin to see how our own human nature is a trap - we begin to wake up to what is really driving us. When we know this we can change how we think and feel about what is REALLY good for us.

6. Lecturing and shock tactics do not work if you want lasting behavioral change. You have to devise simple exercises so that people can make conscious their reasons (drivers). 


Dr. Robb suggests that there are six behavioral traps:

  • Lack of awareness
  • Natural human fears
  • Pressure (unintentional) from supervisors and friends
  • Lack of concentration – drifting off
  • Mentally diminishing the risks
  • Future consequence blindness


When you help your staff or co-worker to avoid these traps, the safety culture improves; the accident rate comes down and stays down longer. 


Staff Contact: Walt Rosenbusch

Category: global hse | Sub Category: safety_moment

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