Why BBS Gets a Bad Name

Why Behavior Based Safety (BBS) Gets a Bad Name

A few decades ago, Behavior Based Safety (BBS) grew in popularity as one of the top methods for injury prevention in the workplace. By changing behaviors, some employers expected to see dramatic declines in worker injuries, were but left with thousands of dollars spent in training with little to show for the investment. Injury rates might have fallen slightly, but quickly plateaued following implementation. After years of these implementations, employers are turning to professionals and behavioral psychologists to explain this phenomenon. Bill Holder, veteran safety professional and change agent skilled in implementing cultural change efforts, draws from his experience in implementing BBS programs to identify key areas in which BBS lacks effectiveness.

3 Reasons BBS Lacks Effectiveness


1. BBS Involves Little to No Focus on Engagement of Problem Solving

A singular focus on behaviors first ignores why those behaviors exist in the work place. More important than fixing behaviors is getting employees engaged in all processes. “Engagement is the key ingredient, with all employees at all levels and in every department. The challenge with organizations is they may not know where to start and how to build trust as the foundation to engagement.”

2. Poor Execution Significantly Decreases Effectiveness

While many would like a program such as BBS to be “off-the-shelf” and simple to implement, that’s simply not the case. “The technology related to human behavior is proven over the past 100+ years.  Where organizations struggle, or fail is not with the technology of behavioral science but because of poor execution.” As with any truly effective system, BBS must be continually improved. While the model and research are proven, it must be adapted to meet the unique needs of the organization and implemented through with wholistic approach, systems focused and leadership involvement.

3. BBS Focuses Too Much on Worker Behaviors

“BBS is not just about worker behaviors, it includes all employees, the systems and processes they work within and the efforts of leadership.” Worker behaviors are only one component of the safety process and a result of many components, including the culture. The communication strategies, system design and overall commitment of leadership to the process are of equal importance to correcting engaging workers and their exposures.

Behavior Based Safety has caused much controversy over the past decades due to the perceived lack of effectiveness. These remarks from Bill Holder show the science behind BBS may be true, but execution and engagement are truly the keys to success. BBS provides a framework promoting a culture of safety, but the effectiveness remains with implementation.

About Bill Holder

Known as a transformational leader throughout his progressively responsible positions from craftsperson to executive leadership; Bill utilizes strengths in analysis and identification of issues within existing systems and processes and combines hands-on field experience. With leadership expertise, he can rapidly diagnose problems and deliver improvements through proficiency in mentoring and coaching teams, strategic plan development and driving maximized employee engagement across functions.