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BEHAVIOURAL SAFETY PROGRAMMES

Plan for Behavioural Safety and Worker Engagement in construction

Research commissioned by HSE has provided the outline of a strategy for encouraging the adoption of Behavioural Change and Worker Engagement (BCWE) programmes across the construction sector. The Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) Research Report examines a number of existing BCWE programmes used by major contractors to improve performance and address behavioural issues that are resistent to change. A sumary of the main conclusions and ideas for securing the more widespread adoption of BCWE are summarised below:

Main conclusions  

  1. Culture etc. – effective programmes are dependant upon an existing mature safety culture, safety management system and good leadership from the top. Where these are in place BCWE programs should overcome the tendancy to be too ‘symptomatic’. Most companies were at an early stage of programme roll out so a watertight business case is not yet possible;
  2. Model – mapping of BCWE initiatives onto an underlying model or rationale should prevent losing sight of key components. One such evidence-based framework is provided within the research report; 
  3. Delivery – rollout of programmes should be checked by observing implementation to judge whether programme messages are being delivered in a style that motivates and inspires;
  4. Health – existing BCWE programmes focus more on safety rather than occupational health. Solutions for raising the profile of occupational health are included in the report.

How to encourage adoption

  1. Integration – use both “top-down” and “bottom up” incentives;
  2. Leadership – strong leadership is required in setting the tone for implementing BCWE programmes and in overcoming the challenges; 
  3. Communication – good dialogue between the major construction companies on experiences in implementing BCWE is paramount.
  4. Partnership – inclusion of BCWE requirements routinely in supply chain contracts should help. For enterprises that do not work for principal contractors, contact with other stakeholders using BCWE should make them more receptive to BCWE programmes;
  5. Targeting – identify safety critical behaviours on a trade-by-trade basis with company observers trained in effective worker engagement skills who regard observation of an unsafe act as a prompt to undertake root cause analysis and;
  6. Toolkit – development of a toolkit to motivate the supply chain to see value in BCWE and provide the ‘bottom-up’ leverage necessary for encouraging wider uptake. This work is now being taken forward by an industry BCWE Working Group.

Comment: BCWE programmes do provide the prospect of improving health and safety performance in construction although the researchers have not found an ‘watertight’ business case. However, many of those using BCWE programmes are very positive and hopeful that they will make a significant contribution to raising performance when a ‘plateau in performance’ appears to have been reached. Only time will tell.

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