When it comes to workplace safety, there are two distinct schools of thought:
- Traditional approaches blame accidents on workers. Herbert W. Heinrich’s 1930s theory -- that 85 to 95% of all accidents stem from unsafe actions by individuals -- dictated much of safety practice for decades, including behavior based safety (BBS) approaches. Improving safety the BBS way means rewarding safe behaviors and discouraging unsafe behaviors.
- Quality approaches attribute accidents to causes within an organization’s systems and processes. Most detractors of BBS approaches say the scientific community has disproved Heinrich’s theory, and the validity of behaviorism in general.1 Opponents of BBS propose applying quality control methods to workplace safety. They advocate systems improvement to eliminate processes that cause workers to make errors resulting in injury.
The annual direct and indirect costs of poor safety in a company with 200 employees is estimated to be about $360,000.2 To improve workplace safety through a systems-and-process approach, consider using the following tools:
- Thomas A. Smith, “What’s Wrong With Behavior-Based Safety?” Professional Safety, September 1999, pp. 37-40; Bernard Sznaider, “Six Sigma Safety,” Manufacturing Engineering, September 2000, p. 18.
- Bernard Sznaider, “Six Sigma Safety,” Manufacturing Engineering, September 2000, p. 18.