Does your BBS process create victims, villains, and a culture of apathy?

Chances are that you have a Behavior Based Safety (BBS) process in place for all of your projects. And, of course, the reason that you have a BBS process to begin with is to reduce accidents. With ninety percent of accidents happening because of errors by workers, it seems like an obvious decision.

But what if your BBS is actually working against you?

The Current BBS Process

The current process is built around the notion that workers are the problem. To improve worksite safety, the goal is to catch worker errors, report the errors, and then fix them. The success of the process is measured by the impact on a lag indicator—accident rates.

The Current Process is Often Quite Slow and Inconsistent

The current BBS process is too slow and inconsistent to be effective. For instance, say a worker identifies a problem and reports it to management. It then takes a long time to process the paperwork, get a report, distribute the report, analyze the report, and have the management share the findings and the solution to the problem with the workforce.

For feedback to be most effective, it needs to be soon, certain, and positive. The most cases, the current process actually impedes effective feedback.

The repetition of an inefficient process results in a chain reaction:

  • When a worker shares feedback, he or she has an expectation that the feedback will be processed quickly and they will see results.
  • When that expectation is not met—he or she receives no feedback, or the management’s response is perceived as a punishment or a penalty—the worker is not motivated to continue to participate in the system.
  • If repeated, the negative experience becomes a belief, and the worker can become apathetic and identify as a victim.
  • When that same story is repeated for other workers, it becomes a shared belief.
  • Shared beliefs equal culture.

The Current Process Often Does Not Consider Worker Psychology

The BBS process does not take into consideration how people make choices based on their cognitive biases, stimulus-response conditioning, the culture, and environmental triggers and traps.

Or consider Dr. Martin Seligman’s research on what he coined Learned Helplessness. Learned Helplessness comes about when a person functions in a system that is unresponsive to them and that they feel helpless to change. The result could be apathy, malicious obedience, and feeling like a victim of the organization.

Victims have villains, and the management becomes the villain.


A New Approach to BBS

The new approach is built around the notion that the worker is the solution.

It is time for a paradigm shift. Managers need to rebalance the process around workers and to see them as partners, solution providers, and innovators. Instead of catching workers making errors and just responding with rules, trust them and engage them in the process of work.

It’s time to focus on lead indicators, like participation rates and good catches of workplace barriers, that turn into value-added solutions that can be leveraged throughout the organization.

Shifting to a New Approach

Do not blame the worker; look at the system and the changes that can be made that will result in improved outcomes for both the worker and the organization.

Clarify Roles Management’s Role

When managers have a goal to get workers to increase their participation, but the managers do not see how their own performance directly impacts worker engagement, that is a Participation Paradox.

Most BBS programs are not effective at establishing accountability for management and for creating clear distinctions between the role of a manager and the role of the safety department. Clarity of roles and responsibilities between management and safety are imperative for the BBS system to work at reducing workplace accidents.

Foster Connectivity

An effective process focuses on more than just training. It’s also about fostering connectivity so workers feel connected to the company, the project, and each other.

You may recall the old poem:

I could’ve saved a life today, but I chose to look the other way.

I didn’t want to seem a fool or challenge them over a safety rule.

Fostering connectivity helps workers to feel safe to give feedback and be accountable to one another and ultimately to work as a team.

It’s time to shift to a focus on leading, instead of pushing, to continue the improvement of work processes. We need to identify environmental and process triggers that effect the emotional state of the workforce. What is impacting the 4 Cs: Calm, Clear, Committed, and Caring?

Change the Culture

Flipping the victim/villain mindset requires a cultural change.

If culture = shared belief

Then cultural change = shared change; a structural change that impacts everybody.

To change belief and impact culture, you need to change workers’ experiences by making them positive over time. You need to create a culture of pronoia.

Pronoia is essentially the opposite of paranoia. It is a state of believing that everyone around you is thinking about you, talking about you, and plotting for your success.

Focusing on fostering a pronoia work environment can have a revolutionary impact on your employees.

Recent studies show that 85% of the workforce is unengaged. Just imagine what you could accomplish if you could flip that to your competitive advantage.

Value Your Workers

This is where actions speak louder than words.

For every time a worker thinks: I don’t believe they care about me and my safety.

This is the manager’s job: Show you care.

Can your workers get through the turnstiles quickly? Are the bathrooms clean? Is there a place for them to sit and eat? How are you demonstrating to your workers that they are valued?

Engage Workers in the Process

When was the last time your workers were given goals, asked to speak up, or encouraged to give an opinion? Engaging workers in those simple ways can empower your workforce to take ownership of their jobs.

Construction workers are always dealing with the unknown and the unknowable. Workers constantly have to adjust because of the multifaceted, variable nature of their work. Weather, equipment breakdowns, and material delays can all impact the ability to be productive.

But imagine if your team was empowered to stop, self-check, and get organized rather than muddle through a broken process.

Systems should be structured to:

  • Engage workers around the processes of work
  • Empower workers to see barriers and risks and work on them immediately
  • Recognize people for good work
  • Leverage contributions

Make Work Rewarding

Structured incentives allow managers to recognize value-added contributions.

There are a variety of ways to incentivize.

  • Gift Cards
  • Certificates of Achievement
  • Lunch for the Team
  • A Sincere Compliment
  • Given Pleasurable Work Assignments

In addition to recognizing contributions, incentives are a way to build trust and connectivity with workers.

Envision the Future

The old BBS process of catch-and-fix is slow an inconsistent, and as a result, it can end up creating victims, villains, and a culture of apathy.

Let us show you how our digital transformation technology can capture 100% employee input, provide overnight feedback, and transform the information into worker-driven intelligence and value creation that you can leverage.


Let the team at eTracker show you how to discover breakdowns, bottlenecks, waste, and reduce accidents with our digital technology.

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